Alcohol on coals sparked Darwin 'fireball'

·2-min read

Alcohol that spilled onto hot coals appears to have caused a "fireball" at a Darwin restaurant, injuring five patrons.

Police and fire crews were called to the Little Miss Korea restaurant on Wednesday night after reports of an explosion.

One of those injured has 40 per cent burns to the front of his body with others suffering wounds to their arms and legs.

Superintendent James O'Brien said six men were preparing food on a charcoal cooker in the centre of the table before the incident.

He said at one stage during the night staff approached the group because of the amount of smoke that was being produced.

"During the night as it's progressed some alcohol seems to have either fallen into or been tipped on that set of coals," Supt O'Brien said.

"That has then caused something like a fireball. The term explosion was probably a bit premature."

The NT fire service and workplace safety authorities have taken charge of the investigation with Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer Joshua Fisher describing the incident as a "violent eruption".

"It was a very quick and large outburst of flames that's erupted outwards from that table and underneath where the charcoal cooker is," he said.

"It would have lasted less than 10 seconds.

"We've got alcohol that's quite cold that's been spilled or poured onto the charcoal cooker that's mixed with fats from the meat that's been cooking which has then caused that violent eruption to occur."

The deputy fire chief said staff at the restaurant were quick to quell the remains of the blaze with a fire extinguisher, with damage to the premises only minor.

NT WorkSafe technical services director Anthony Waite said an inspector had attended the scene on Wednesday night with orders put in place not to disturb the site.

"We currently have investigators down at the restaurant conducting interviews and collecting information and evidence," he said.

"We'll take statements from various individuals, including the injured parties, the owners of the restaurant, and witnesses to try to put together a storyline and try to determine the facts leading up to the event."

Mr Waite said there had been no previous incidents with similar at-table cooking establishments in the Northern Territory.

In a statement, the restaurant operators said their first thoughts were for a swift recovery for those who were hurt.

"We are also thinking of our loyal customers that were there last night and our amazing staff," they said.

"It's too early to assess the damage but today we will be remaining closed and notifying customers with bookings tonight.

"We are co-operating fully with relevant agencies as they conduct their inquiries and won't be making further comments whilst those investigations are ongoing."