Two young children were rushed to the hospital with severe burns to their mouths and throats after drinking apple juice at a Lancaster, Pa. restaurant Friday.
Richie Zaragoza and his 4-year-old half-sister, Ginaya Mendoza, were celebrating Richie’s sixth birthday with their family at Star Buffet & Grill, a varied cuisine restaurant, when they became ill.
“He just started screaming, ‘it burns, it burns,’” Richie’s mother, Virginia Davis, told Lancaster Online. Ginaya had ingested the juice, too.
Restaurant manager Steve Weng said his staff bought the bottled apple juice at a supermarket and poured it into paper cups to serve.
“I asked the waitress, and she said she just poured the apple juice from a bottle into the paper cup. That’s all,” he told the Daily News.
Ginaya was first to sip the juice, her mother told Lancaster Online. “She started spitting saliva out,” Virginia Davis said. Richie began screaming too, and started throwing up blood.
On Saturday afternoon, the two children were reportedly in intensive care at Hershey Medical Center, suffering from severe burns to the mouth and throat.
The liquid they ingested is being tested.
Weng noted that the apple juice sits near the restaurant’s soda area, which he described as open and accessible to the public. “The soda area is open, so I don’t know if someone might have put something inside the apple juice,” he said.
“We cannot take care of everything. I don’t know if someone went back there,” he said. “Some people they come and serve themselves. There is no door to the area. People can come here,” he said.
Luis Mercado, Davis’ brother-in-law, tasted the juice and also spat out blood. He said it tasted like acid. Mercado was not hospitalized.
In his LinkedIn biography, Richie’s father, Richard Zaragoza Sr., explains that his son was born with cystic fibrosis.
Zaragoza told Lancaster Online that because of his condition, he’s being fed through a gastronomy tube.