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Fireball at restaurant badly burns apprentice: owners plead guilty

GRAPHIC IMAGE WARNING: The images attached to this story may disturb some readers.

The victim of an explosion at a Braddon restaurant suffered burns so severe he was placed in an induced coma and flown to the specialist burns unit in Sydney, a Canberra court has heard.

The owners of Delissio Brasserie, Stephen Fitzsimmons and Jeremy Grobben, have pleaded guilty to charges of failing to comply with their safety duties.

The pair appeared before a sentencing hearing in ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

A statement of facts, tendered in court, said Ashleigh Craig Jefferson was an apprentice chef at the northside eatery in January 2011.

On January 25, he was preparing and cooking pizzas in a pizza oven when three cans of butane gas, used to make desserts via a brulee torch, exploded.


He was engulfed in flames, causing serious burns to his hands, face and elbow.

A piece of a can also cause a deep puncture wound to his leg.

Mr Jefferson was rushed to the Canberra Hospital, where he was placed in an induced coma and transferred to the specialist burns unit at Concord Hospital.

Another employee, Philippe Tuan Bui, had the hair on his head, chest and forearm singed and a small red lesion on his nose as a result of the fireball.

A WorkSafe investigation revealed the three cylinders, containing the highly flammable gas, had been incorrectly stored beneath the pizza oven, contrary to the established practice at the restaurant.

The defendants admitted they breached the Work Safety Act by negligently failing to ensure the safety of staff.

Prosecutor Anthony Williamson told the hearing that the level of negligence was "clear and palpable".

"No other penalty than very substantial fines would be appropriate," Mr Williamson said.

But defence barrister, Ian Bradfield, argued neither defendant knew of the incorrectly stored cans and the incident was at the bottom range of seriousness.

Mr Bradfield said his clients were safety minded and had formulated a staff orientation handbook, which included safety procedures, checklists and reporting systems.

He said staff should be assumed to have common sense while undertaking their duties to complement the safety guidelines.

But Mr Bradfield said his clients had pleaded guilty as the overall responsibility lies with the owner.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker will hand down her decision next week.