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Oil company owner critical after 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) Credit: Randee Daddona

The owner of a fuel-oil supply company in Southold was in critical condition Friday at Stony Brook University Medical Center after police said he was burned when a hose off-loading biofuel ruptured, igniting a flash fire.

John Romanelli of Burt's Reliable was burned in the accident at the company's lot at 1515 Youngs Ave. at about 7:15 a.m., Southold Town police said.

Suffolk County police airlifted Romanelli, 47, of Southold, to Stony Brook, where he was in critical but stable condition in the surgical intensive care unit, a hospital administrator said Friday evening.

"I can't talk too much about it because the investigation is still ongoing," his brother Paul Romanelli said.

Keith Cummings, chief of the Southold Fire Department, said fire officials believe John Romanelli was using a torch-type device to heat a pipe about 10 feet from where the hose was draining biofuel into a storage tank. Police said Romanelli "began torching the [connection] valve" that distributes fuel from the truck to the tank because the valve was frozen.

When the fuel hose burst, it sprayed fuel and ignited a flash fire near where Romanelli was working.

Cummings said Romanelli's clothes caught fire and he had severe burns all over his body.

Cummings said the flash fire had extinguished itself by the time the fire department arrived and that Romanelli was the only person injured.

With Ellen Yan

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