PUYALLUP, Wash. — A Puyallup worker who suffered grease burns after a vehicle crashed into the restaurant is fighting for his life.
On Tuesday, November 28, a vehicle crashed into Don’s Drive-In on South Meridian at about 1:30 p.m.
Puyallup police said a 48-year-old man, from Federal Way, suffered life-threatening injuries after the crash caused the fryer to topple over, spilling grease all over the employee.
A 64-year-old man, from Bonney Lake, was impaired during the crash, police said. He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and vehicular assault. At last check, he was being held at the Pierce County Jail.
The restaurant, a staple in the community, has been open on S. Meridian for nearly two decades.
KIRO 7 News reached out to the Puyallup Police Department.
A spokesperson said he did not have any updates on the investigation.
KIRO 7 News spoke with Andrew Peterson on Friday, who said his two daughters work at the restaurant.
The vehicle crashed into the side of the restaurant where workers take customers’ orders, he explained.
And that’s where his two daughters often work at.
“It’s crazy. Just in the middle of the day. There was music going on. There were customers here,” he said.
Peterson explained to KIRO 7 News how the crash injured Jiho Yoon, his daughters’ co-worker, who is currently fighting for his life.
He said the large fryer pinned Jiho to the wall as the grease spilled over him.
“There’s nothing that can compare, other than maybe napalm, to getting covered from head to toe in hot deep-fried oil,” he said.
“We know his mother and father are visiting him every day in the hospital,” Peterson added.
Jiho suffered burns across his body, part of his face, arms, and legs, he shared with KIRO 7 News.
Peterson told KIRO 7 News that Jiho Yoon was more than a co-worker to his daughters.
“He treated them like family,” he shared.
“He would humor them,” he said. “He would dress up for Halloween. Pretty much anything they wanted to do; he would do it for them to make it a great environment. It’s really a family environment down here.”
KIRO 7 News spoke with Gina Burkhammer, the property owner, who said she has been in contact with the restaurant owner who has been supporting Jiho and his family at the hospital.
“She (restaurant owner) has been making the daily drive to pick up Jiho’s parents and drive them to Harborview to spend the hours with him every day and to make sure he’s okay,” she said.
She said Jiho underwent his first surgery on Thursday.
“They actually had to put off the skin graft surgery for several days because the burns needed to finish burning essentially. So he had to deal with the pain of the burns continuing to burn.” She added, “I cannot even fathom the amount of pain he’s going in, and that’s all that keeps playing in my mind.”
Burkhammer said the crash damaged the restaurant’s equipment, wall, roof, food and supplies, and electrical wiring.
The coffee shop next door is also temporarily closed, she added, due to the power outage.
She said the total estimated damage is at least $150,000.
“It’s frustrating to know that someone’s bad decisions caused so much devastation.” Burkhammer added, “This man (suspect) just changed, not just Jiho’s life, but many lives forever. And it’s really really upsetting.”
Co-workers of Jiho Yoon created a GoFundMe to help him as he is currently being treated at the hospital.
The GoFundMe reads:
“Standing behind the wall was 48-year-old Jiho, manning the deep fryer where he has been a permanent fixture and dedicated employee for years, cooking and even creating popular new menu items, assisting the owner, helping new employees with training, and cooking all of the great food Don’s is known for, Jiho drove nearly every day from his home in Federal Way and did a fantastic job every time. Always cooking and frying with a smile, when long-time customers asked his name, he would point to himself and say, “Brad Pitt!,” with a big smile. Jiho’s excellent attitude, strong work ethic, and upbeat mood were permanently disrupted by the Nov. 28th accident, by the sedan that drove through the wall which caused hot deep fryer oil to cover his face and body.”
©2023 Cox Media Group