Richie Zaragoza turned 10 years old on Friday, March 3, 2017.
In celebration of the milestone, Richie’s mom, Virginia Davis, her brother-in-law, Luis Mercado, and all four of her children—Richie, Ginaya, Miguel Mercado and Anthony Mercado—all went out for dinner at Star Buffet & Grill in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
According to Lancaster Online, both Ritchie and Ginaya ordered apple juice with their meals.
After the server delivered their beverages in styrofoam cups, Ginaya was the first to take a drink of the apple juice.Screenshot/Fox 43
David told Lancaster Online her daughter started immediately spitting up and soon after she began exclaiming her stomach hurt just before throwing up. At first Davis thougt Ginaya was just sick, but then Ritchie took a sip of the child’s drink:
“He just started screaming, ‘It burns, it burns.’”
Once Ritchie began throwing up blood, Mercado grabbed the cup and took a sip himself. He admitted it tasted like acid and started spitting up blood as well.
According to Lancaster Online, six-year-old Miguel’s cup of apple juice was reportedly fine.
Both Ritchie and Ginaya were taken by ambulance to Lancaster General Hospital and later airlifted to Hershey Medical Center. The following day, both of the children were diagnosed with severe burns to the mouth and throat. They were labeled in critical, yet stable condition.
Miguel and Mercado did not need medical attention after drinking the juice.
Ritchie and Ginaya will remain under sedation for several days. Ritchie’s father, Richard—who has primary custody of the boy—told Fox 43 that his son already deals with other medical issues:
“He has Cystic Fibrosis and Diabetes, so the concerns are a lot worse.”
Richard also told Fox 43 that this wasn’t the first time his son had eaten at the buffet. In fact, Star Buffet and Grill is one of Ritchie’s favorite spots.Screenshot/Fox 43
He continued saying that any other time his son would order juice, it would come in its original bottle with a styrofoam cup filled with ice:
“That’s the other thing, like any other time that they brought the apple juice to us they would bring a styrofoam cup with ice and a separate drink so you can open and pour it if you want to. You know this time they brought it already made.”
This time the juice was poured from a half gallon jug into the cups before being served. As Lancaster Online reports:
Manager Steve Weng said nothing like this has happened at the Star Buffet in the year he’s been there. He said the apple juice was bought at a local supermarket and he has no idea how it became contaminated.
It’s being reported that a “caustic substance” had somehow made its way into the cups, but that is all that is known at this time.
Davis is understandably still in shock over the incident.
According to Fox 43, the restaurant is still open for business, which Richard finds “baffling.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated for clarity after publication.