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John Romanelli dies after work accident

Paul Romanelli, brother of John Romanelli, sweeps up

Paul Romanelli, brother of John Romanelli, sweeps up ashes from a fuel tanker accident at Burt's Reliable in Southold. (Dec. 30, 2011) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

The owner of a Southold fuel-supply company died Tuesday, nearly four days after he was burned by a flash fire that was ignited when a hose ruptured on a tanker truck off-loading biofuel, his family said.

John Romanelli, 47, president of Burt's Reliable and a former Southold Town councilman, died at Stony Brook University Medical Center about 3:20 a.m., his older brother, Paul Romanelli said.

He was severely burned Friday as he was working about 10 feet from where the hose ruptured, according to Southold Town police.

Paul Romanelli said his brother was a "bigger-than-life kinda guy," who loved snow-skiing and his work.

"He embraced life, he really did," Paul Romanelli said, adding that his brother was a huge New York Jets fan who also loved the beach.

John Romanelli was using a torch-type tool to heat a frozen pipe at the company's lot at 1515 Youngs Ave. about 7:15 a.m. on Friday when the hose burst, spraying the area with biofuel and igniting his clothing, town police said.

He was airlifted to the Stony Brook hospital by Suffolk County police.

Keith Cummings, chief of the Southold Fire Department, said Romanelli had severe burns all over the front of his body.

The flash fire was out by the time the fire department arrived and Romanelli was the only person injured, Cummings said.

A spokesman for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the federal agency that sets workplace standards, said Tuesday the accident has been reported and its Long Island office is investigating.

Paul Romanelli said, "John's injuries were far too extensive despite the incredible efforts of the doctors and nurses . . . and John's fearless battle to survive."

John Romanelli, of Southold, served two terms as a Southold Town councilman, ending in 2002, his brother said.

"He felt he could make a difference," Paul Romanelli said.

John Romanelli's survivors include his wife, Heather, a son, Ethan, 19, and a daughter, Tara, 18, his brother said.

John and his wife would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this year, Paul Romanelli said. "The family is incredibly saddened and shocked," Paul Romanelli said.

Southold Town Board members held a moment of silence for John Romanelli before their swearing-in to a new term and the Southold Town Hall flag was at half-staff in his memory.

Visiting hours will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday and from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Coster-Heppner Funeral Home on Main Road in Cutchogue. A service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Southold. Burial will be private.

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