KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The owner of a Knoxville pizzeria is recovering from severe burns after an explosion. Nick Haddad was injured while at Little Nicky's New York Pizza on Oak Ridge Highway on September 10. The community gathered at Karns Volunteer Fire Department Friday night to do what they could to help.
"He went in one morning to start prepping for the day and there was an explosion when he opened the oven door," said Marianne Morse, a friend who helped organize the fundraiser.
Firefighters say it was the result of an all-night gas leak at the restaurant.
"When he came to relight it the following morning, there was a gas explosion causing severe burns," explained Justin Thoroughman, with Karns Volunteer Fire Department.
Little Nicky's New York Pizza is temporarily closed. There's a sign on the door that says "Due to an incident with one of our ovens, Nick has suffered severe burns…"
Those at the fundraiser say Nick is a hard-working man, and the pizza shop is his family's livelihood. He only opened the business a month ago.
"His hope and dream had always been to open up a pizzeria. As friends we wanted to do something to help with expenses," Morse said.
The fundraising dinner was clubbed with a raffle. Businesses had donated prizes towards the cause.
It was an event to help the family. But authorities say it should also be a warning to anyone who uses a natural gas device.
"Anytime you come to an appliance and smell the rotten egg smell of natural gas, get out of the structure, go to a neighbor's house, and call 911," Thoroughman explained.
Loved ones hope to see Haddad back in his kitchen, healed and able to feed them again.
"We want Nick the way he was prior to the 10th of September. We know he will be, because he has such a positive attitude and such a will to recover from this," Morse said.
If you'd like to help the Haddad family, mail donations to Bank of America, 9375 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37922. Checks can be made payable to Nick/Dina Haddad. On the check memo line, write "Fundraiser for Nick account #4440 775 247". Bank of America customers can do an online transfer.