PARAGOULD, Ark. – Samantha Myers hoped to cap off a perfect birthday by enjoying a meal with her family Sunday at Kimono Japanese Steakhouse in Paragould – but a freak accident put her in the hospital with first and second-degree burns.
“Yeah, I’m hurting pretty bad,” Myers said Sunday. “Mainly just my face and my chest.”
As the chef performed the style of cuisine known as ‘teppanyaki,” where diners sit next to the hot grill as the chef prepares food and entertains, Myers suffered burns to her chest, neck and face when the flames burst out of control. A fireball erupted as the chef was squirting flammable liquid onto the grill to draw a heart for her birthday, Myers said.
An employee at the restaurant confirmed the incident happened to NEA Report on Monday.
“The next thing I know, I’m on fire.”
But her birthday began so much more positively than it ended.
“I got up this morning,” Myers said on Sunday. “My husband and kids woke me up telling me happy birthday. We got ready for church. We went to church in Brookland. Then my husband was like, ‘I’ve got a surprise for you.’ He brought me back home. He and the kids went to the store and got me some candy and a card for my birthday.”
But her thoughtful family had another surprised planned. The family got into the car and without Myers knowing the destination, drove to Kimono Japanese Steakhouse in Paragould.
“I see my brother in-law standing at the door waiting on us,” Myers said. “We go in and it was my father in-law, mother in-law, my brother in-law (18), sister in-law (11), my son (6), my daughter (7) and my husband.”
Like most Japanese steakhouses in NEA, Kimono offers seating at the ‘teppan’ grill, also commonly called a Hibachi grill, allowing for both a meal and a show from a chef. The family sat down. Myers said everything was going great. The chef prepared the food, finished the meal, and everyone seemed poised to enjoy the experience.
But that’s where the night went bad.
“After he gets done cooking our food, I don’t know what it was he squirted on the grill,” Myers said. “The stuff he squirted on the grill, he lit it. My father-in-law thinks when he did it, the lid popped off. It just burst into flames and I see my mother-in-law jump up and she was whipping her face. I thought it got her. The next thing I know, I’m on fire.”
Myers said he made a heart-shape on the grill and lit it on fire. Then, he went to draw a second heart next to it with the liquid – while the first heart was still on fire. Something went wrong. That’s when the fireball burst off of the grill, catching Myers on fire in front of her family. The fire was so hot, Myers jacket was melted. She said she pulled the jacket apart at the hospital. The chef apparently also caught on fire, according to one of her family members.
In a panic and screaming in pain, Myers pushed her seat back and ran to the bathroom to get water. Her mother-in-law chased after her to help her. She splashed water on herself to try to put the fire out. Her charred hair covered the sink, she said.
Myers daughter had gone to the bathroom before the fireball erupted. She didn’t know what was happening when her mom burst into the same bathroom, screaming. The daughter ran out of the bathroom crying after seeing her mom’s burned hair in the sink. Fortunately, she had been away from her seat at the table – where a to-go cup had been completely melted from the fire. Myers said her daughter would have caught on fire too, had she been there when it happened.
Myers and her mother-in-law left the bathroom and the restaurant to go to the hospital. Still thinking of her family, Myers told her kids to stay and eat their meal – which Kimono provided for free, following the incident. Her little boy didn’t want to leave her side.
“My son kept wanting to come with us and I was like, ‘No baby. You sit down and eat,'” Myers said.
Once at the hospital, the day’s experiences remained negative. She remained there for approximately four hours, she said. Her white pillow was stained in black ash from her burned hair. She was given morphine and other pain medication to help with what were diagnosed as first and second-degree burns to her face, chest, and neck.
As she was waiting for doctors, Myers said she was able to see herself for the first time. She had no eyelashes, no eyebrows, and the top part of her hair was burned, too. She said she started crying as soon as she saw the damage.
“My face feels like a really, really, really bad sunburn,” Myers said. “Like I’ve just laid out in the sun for days and days and days. My top lip is so bad. I don’t know if it did nerve damage or what, but I can’t feel my top lip. That’s why tomorrow, I’m going to see my primary care physician.”
Myers later realized her husband even suffered minor burns to his hand after she said he tried reaching in front of her face to block the flames. Those injuries were not treated.
On Monday, Myers updated our reporter on her condition. She said she had nightmares all night about being set on fire and was still in a lot of pain. She had doctors appointments with both her primary care physician and an optometrist on Monday. She feared her vision may have been affected by the fire as she reported difficulty seeing and focusing in the aftermath. She also said her skin on her neck began to bubble up.
The experience has left her with a traumatic memory. It’s one she said will make it hard for her to ever eat at a Japanese table-side grill again.
“He was just really careless about what he was doing,” Myers said.
NEA Report reached out to Kimono for a statement but we have not received one as of this publication.