HALEYVILLE - A relief fund has been set up to help an employee of Banks Barbecue, who was seriously injured Friday night, Dec. 11, when she opened the bin doors of the smoker and intense heat rushed out, resulting in burns on the upper potion of her body.
Savannah Miller, 18, suffered burns around her facial area as well as neck, chest and upper part of her legs, in the incident, according to employees. An employee of the restaurant, located on Highway 195, called emergency 9-1-1, according to Stan Parrish, whose son Landon owns the business.
The incident, which occurred around 4:30 p.m., resulted in response from the Haleyville Police Department, Haleyville Fire Department and medics with Regional Paramedical Service ambulance.
Miller was placed in an ambulance and treated by medics on the scene before being transported to UAB Hospital in Birmingham, where she was treated and later released, restaurant officials said.
Customers inside the restaurant were evacuated into the parking lot for a short period of time Friday night, while authorities were on the scene and emergency responders were to clear the scene of any danger.
Cody Williams, Miller’s boyfriend, gathered with family and friends during quite an emotional moment, as medics were treated Savannah in the ambulance before she was transported to UAB.
“It singed a little bit of her hair,” Williams said. “I know it hurt her. It hurt me sitting there with her.”
Savannah was in the process of opening the pit doors of the smoker to add some ribs when the heat rushed out, according to employees.
“She just opened all that up, and all of that heat hit her in the face,” Stan said.
“The heat pressure had built up,” added Landon’s mom Stephanie Parrish.
“I heard it go boom. It was just the sound.”
The incident was called into dispatch as an explosion at Banks Barbecue with a person injured, but employees confirmed there was not an explosion.
“I heard that sound and I came down here and asked, ‘Savannah, are you alright?’ and she was trying to find her way,” Stephanie recalled. “I helped her get to the kitchen.”
The incident resulted in Banks Barbecue being closed for the remainder of business hours on Friday night, employees confirmed.
The restaurant has since reopened, and gas company officials were contacted to respond and check the gas pressure going into the smoker, just as a precautionary measure, according to Stephanie.
“She is going to be off (work) for several weeks,” Stephanie stated. “She doesn’t want to be, but she is going to have to be.” Employees said Miller was resting at home.
“I wish it was me instead of her,” Stephanie pointed out. “It was one of those things that couldn’t be helped and it just happened.”
A donation box has been set up at the restaurant to collect monetary means to help Miller with medical bills and expenses, especially since she will be off work a while, employees said.
Stephanie commended first responders on their rapid response. “They were very helpful, comforting her and calming her down,” she said.
“Right now (Savannah) is scared and we just want her well,” Stephanie added.
“She is just part of our family,” she added. “We love her and everybody is just scared right now, but she is going to be OK.
“Anything we can do to help her, we will,” Stephanie noted.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.