A New York couple have sued the barbecue place that catered their 2015 wedding reception where they say about 100 guests got sick on bad macaroni and cheese.
Melissa Conarton, the bride, described the scene of her wedding reception as “apocalyptic,” with sick guests walking around like zombies.
People began vomiting. Nine ambulances showed up. Triage was set up in the parking lot. More than 20 people wound up in the hospital.
“It was a beautiful day that just turned into this event that you would see in a horror movie,” the LaFayette, New York, resident told “Good Morning America.”
“People were walking around not themselves. They couldn’t talk. They were incoherent. Some people were saying things like ‘I just wanna die.”
She filed a lawsuit in Onondaga County Supreme Court against Doug Tarpinian, owner of Holy Smoke BBQ and Catering of Earlville, New York, alleging that he “served food unfit for human consumption,” Syracuse.com reported.
She and her husband, Jesse Abbott, want the company to reimburse guests for their hospital co-pays, according to the Syracuse news outlet.
The lawsuit alleges that the guests got food poisoning from the macaroni and cheese provided by the caterer that was “statistically significant for staphylococcus aureus.”
A state health department investigation concluded a few months later that about 35 people had suffered from staph aureus enterotoxin infection at the reception.
Health department officials did not examine any food and were not able to identify the source of the problem, Syracuse.com reported.
“We were under investigation for six months,” Tarpinian told Yahoo Lifestyle. “They confiscated my food the next day that we had left over from that wedding and nothing came back contaminated.”
He told Yahoo that when he and his staff arrived at the venue, “they had a table full of appetizers, cheeses, salamis, all kinds of stuff, and we don’t know who provided the food, who was handling that food when we got there. One of her guests could have touched the tongs, and everybody (in line) behind there could have it.
“And they provided their own bartenders — we don’t know who they are. … There are so many loose holes here.”
The couple deny that any of the food provided by someone other than the caterer caused the illnesses.
“It is very unfortunate what happened at their wedding three years ago. We have fully cooperated with the health department and we were not found guilty of any wrongdoings,” an unnamed lawyer for the caterer said in a statement to “Inside Edition.”
Conarton spent a year planning the reception, held on July 31, 2015, for about 200 guests, she told Syracuse.com. The party took place at Arrowhead Lodge in the Oneida Shores Park in Onondaga County, two weeks after the couple got married in a small, private church ceremony, according to Yahoo Lifestyle.
The menu was rustic to fit the setting — pulled pork, chicken, baked beans, salads, rice and mac and cheese, “Inside Edition” reported.
Guests began eating around 3 p.m., and by 6:30ish, “we had triage, people with nice clothes, losing all bodily functions,” Conarton told “Inside Edition.”
The first guests reportedly got sick while the couple were enjoying their first dance.
The bride ran outside and found someone vomiting into a bag and going in and out of consciousness, she told “Inside Edition.” Soon so many people were vomiting that the bathrooms filled up and the venue placed a huge tarp on the ground outside for anyone who needed to hurl, she said.
“It’s so difficult to see not only your friends and closest family, but when you see young children, too, going through this experience. It was terrible,” she told “Good Morning America.”
Tarpinian told Yahoo that he felt so terrible about what happened that he let the bill go. Then they sued him and, after consulting with a lawyer, he decided to countersue for what they still owe him.
He told Yahoo he’s been losing business because of the lawsuit.