Lawrence man hailed as 'selfless' hero following death in hazmat incident

Courtesy photoRyan Baldera, 32, of Lawrence, died Friday while trying to clean up a spill of toxic chemicals at Buffalo Wild Wings in Burlington, where he was the general manager.

LAWRENCE — Friends and family members of Ryan Baldera have set up a GoFundMe memorial page to help his wife and newborn baby as they cope with the death of a man being hailed as a hero following a hazardous materials spill Thursday evening.

Baldera, 32, of Lawrence, was the general manager of the Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar in Burlington. When he rushed to clean up a mess of two different kinds of cleaning chemicals that had been created by another employee, he was overcome by fumes. He had tried to use a squeegee to clean up the chemicals, but was sickened by the gas created by a mixture of bleach and acid.

Firefighters tended to him outside the building and took him to Lahey Hospital Thursday evening, where he died.

He leaves behind his wife, Jessica Marie Baldera, and their 3-month old son.

A preliminary investigation conducted in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicated that a second employee had applied two substances, Super 8 and Scale Kleen, to the kitchen floor while attempting to clean it at around 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The two substances reacted with one another, creating toxic fumes.

Twelve people checked themselves into Lahey Hospital and a 13th person self-checked into a Lowell-area hospital Thursday night after the incident. The patients included both restaurant employees and patrons. Their symptoms included difficulty breathing and burning feelings in the eyes. All of the patients have since been released from the hospital.

The restaurant, located at 15 South Ave. near the Burlington Mall, was closed during the investigation and clean-up, but has since been reopened.

A Buffalo Wild Wings statement says the company is "shocked and saddened" and working with the franchisee and authorities.

A GoFundMe created by friends and relatives Friday has already taken in more than $30,000 of its $100,000 goal. 

A statement on the page refers to Ryan as a "beloved husband, father, son, brother, cherished uncle, nephew and son-in-law to his close knit family and friends. Ryan's life was tragically taken too soon in an accident at work protecting the patrons and staff at a restaurant he managed. He married the love of his life last year and three months ago they brought their son into the world."

The statement goes on to say that he had a "selflessness" that endeared him to people but that "sadly, that selflessness cost him his life."

Ed Araujo, organizer of the GoFundMe page for Baldera, said he and other friends and family members were "overwhelmingly humbled and heartened by the outpouring of support the community, customers, friends and family have been in their generosity during this tremendously difficult time. There is no amount of money that will ever be able to replace an hour of time with Ryan.  Every penny raised for Ryan’s wife and son will help them focus on their future without financial burden and worries on their mind."

In addition to the GoFundMe page, the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce has set up a memorial fund for Baldera's family. Those who would like to contribute to the fund can send a check payable to the "Ryan Baldera Memorial Fund" to: Cambridge Savings Bank, 214 Cambridge St., Burlington, MA 01803. 

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