A 67 year-old Utah woman is in critical condition after drinking ice tea that was sweetened with lye instead of sugar.
After the first sips of her ice tea, Jan Harding immediately felt the tea burning her mouth. She suffered severe burns after she drank her beverage at the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in South Jordan.
Cpl. Sam Winkler of the South Jordan Police said that the tea contained an industrial cleaning chemical that was highly toxic. Apparently, the substance had been left in a dispenser that was easily accessible.
This chemical that was accidentally mixed into her drink was an industrial cleaner used to remove grease off of barbecues and frying equipment. Among its ingredients, sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, was what caused the severe burns.
According to Harding’s attorney, Paxton Guymon, a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit employee mistook the dangerous chemical with sugar and added it into the ice tea.
Harding was admitted to the burn unit of the University of Utah Hospital, where her condition is critical. The mother of three and grandmother of six is currently intubated, unable to speak and has limited motion of her neck and head.
Initially, she was brought to an area hospital by her husband, but doctors were so concerned with her conditioned that they ordered her transfer. She was therefore airlifted to the University of Utah’s burn unit.
Cpl. Winkler assured the public that no one else had drunk the poisoned beverage and explained that if the substance were to have been swallowed, it could have been fatal.
A criminal investigation has been set into motion and the restaurant, while still open, was subject to a health department investigation. Although the substance was most probably accidentally mixed into the beverage, the person responsible will most certainly face battery charges.
Winkler noted that, if the situation were to change and if Harding were to succumb to her injuries, the person responsible for mixing the lye into her drink wouldn’t just face battery charges, but also criminally negligent homicide.
On Thursday, an endoscopy was performed on Harding and it discovered that the woman also had severe burns on her esophagus.
According to her attorney, Paxton Guymon, the family is very disappointed because Harding’s situation could deteriorate at any time.
At this time, the police have already determined which employee accidentally mixed the industrial cleaner in the ice tea. They are, however, declining to reveal that information.