Defective alcohol pourer blamed for horrific Paceville accident

Burning alcohol ‘turned to spray’ and was inhaled by boy as he filmed cocktail

The bar in Paceville where the incident occurred.

The bar in Paceville where the incident occurred.

A defective alcohol pourer is being blamed for a freak accident at a Paceville bar yesterday in which a 16-year-old Italian boy suffered grievous burns after inhaling a spewing flame. 

The incident, which occurred during the serving of a popular but dangerous cocktail known as ‘Flaming Lamborghini’, was recorded on the victim’s mobile phone, police sources said.

Two teenage girls, a 16-year-old Italian and a 17-year-old Spaniard, had to be treated for facial burns but were discharged from hospital yesterday afternoon. The Italian boy was in intensive care.

In the footage, the bartender is seen placing six shooter glasses in a circle beneath stacks of champagne and wine glasses, with another shooter glass at the very top, a source said.

During interrogation, he told the police that all of a sudden, as he was pouring the absinthe to fill the third glass, “it turned to spray and in the blink of an eye it diffused onto the teenagers, who panicked”.

“The worst hit was the Italian boy filming with his mobile phone as he started shouting and inhaled the flaming liquid,” the source said.

The other two teenagers suffered facial burns.

The bartender, a 22-year-old Macedonian residing in Swieqi, is set to be arraigned in court tomorrow and charged with causing involuntary bodily harm.

The Italian boy started shouting and inhaled the flaming liquid

Police sources said the establishment licensee would be accused at a later stage in connection with the presence of underage patrons. Magistrate Joe Mifsud is heading the inquiry.

The incident took place in the early hours of yesterday at about 12.15am at Bacco Sticks & Sum in Triq Santa Rita, Paceville. 

A flaming cocktail might look something like this stock photo.A flaming cocktail might look something like this stock photo.

The Flaming Lamborghini has in recent years regained popularity due to the dramatic and spectacular flame it produces. This is caused by the trickling of alcohol onto several stacks of glasses, with the cocktail containers placed at the very bottom.

However, the highly flammable drink has seen controversy abroad due to a spate of incidents involving facial burns and it has been banned in some places.

Club owners who spoke to this newspaper recalled that at the turn of the millennium there was a similar craze for flammable cocktails in the wake of a famous scene featuring this kind of drink in the film Coyote Ugly. 

The Flaming Lamborghini comes in various combinations but the one at the heart of the Paceville incident contained absinthe, a highly alcoholic anise-flavoured green spirit, sources said. The other liquors used in this particular combination were sambuca, chartreuse and Red Aftershock.

While questions have already been raised about how the 16-year-old Italian, a minor, was inside the establishment, this newspaper learned that the drinks, six in total, were purchased by one of his older friends who was of age.

A police source said that during interrogation the Macedonian insisted he followed the right procedure and backed his claim by saying this could be verified from the smartphone footage. He insisted he did not pour the absinthe at once but at regular intervals to minimise the volume of flammable alcohol being poured. Prior to serving the drink, he said, he had urged patrons to keep a safe distance but they could barely move as the place was crowded.

He also told the police he was in the final year of a hotel-management course in Macedonia and was experienced in the preparation of this dangerous drink. However, he blamed the absinthe pourer, claiming it was defective.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, who is assisting the bartender, confirmed that his client was considering taking legal action against the absinthe manufacturer over the pourer. The bottle in question was seized by the scene of crime officers for further investigation.

Dr Azzopardi also thanked a doctor who happened to be on the spot for giving medical assistance to the injured teenagers, saying his client would like to trace him to thank him in person and, if possible, come forward to give evidence.

Though the bartender was granted police bail, he is set to be charged today, to allow the other two teenagers to testify immediately as they are due to fly back to their country in the coming days.

The accused, who will not be arraigned under arrest, is expected to be charged with causing involuntary grievous bodily harm.  Charges are also set to be filed against the licensee at a later stage in connection with the presence of minors at the establishment. 

Contacted by this newspaper, a representative of Bacco Sticks & Sum declined to comment.

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