01/07/12 1:52pm
01/07/2012 1:52 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Family members carry out Mr. Romanelli's casket after the Saturday morning service.

Continuing an outpouring of love and concern one local clergyman said he’s never before seen, Southold friends and family said goodbye to businessman and former councilman John Romanelli during a Saturday morning service at the filled-to-overflowing First Presbyterian Church in Southold.

Mr. Romanelli died early Tuesday morning, four days after suffering extensive burns in a flash fire that sparked while a truck was delivering a load of heating oil to his business, Burt’s Reliable in Southold on Friday, Dec. 30. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center and treated in the facility’s burn unit , where he passed away early Tuesday morning.

He was 47.

Mr. Romanelli was remembered Saturday for his love of family, driving work ethic and infectious grin.  His brother, Paul, added that the family has been overwhelmed by community’s reaction to John’s death.

About 700 people paid their respects at the Costner-Heppner Funeral Home in Cutchogue Friday afternoon, and on Thursday the line of those waiting to get in stretched out the door and down the block.

“Strangers waited in line in the cold for 90 minutes just to say good-bye,” Paul Romanelli said. “We will never forget how the community came together.”

Rev. Peter Kelley of the First Presbyterian Church, who was joined in the service by Father Peter Gary of St. Patrick’s R.C. Church of Southold, said he’s never before witnessed such community support.

“It’s an amazing outpouring that began this week,” Rev. Kelley said.

Speaking to the sudden end of Mr. Romanelli’s life, he told those in mourning that “questions are many. Anger is allowed.”

The community’s coming together following the tragedy is a gift and a blessing, Rev. Kelley added. “And I think it is a partial answer to your questions.”

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01/03/12 9:00am
01/03/2012 9:00 AM
Burt's Reliable


John Romanelli, a former Southold Town councilman and owner of a Southold fuel oil company, died early Tuesday morning at Stony Brook University Medical Center. He was 47.

Mr. Romanelli suffered extensive burns Friday when a fuel line ruptured and the biofuel being offloaded from a tanker truck sprayed out and ignited.

Mr. Romanelli, who police said was using a heat source to thaw a frozen pipe, was burned across the front of his body.

“Unfortunately, John’s injuries were far too extensive despite the incredible efforts of the doctors and nurses of Stony Brook University Hospital and John’s fearless battle to survive,” his brother, Paul Romanelli, said in a statement Tuesday morning.

John Romanelli is survived by his wife, Heather, and his two children, Ethan and Tara.

“We ask that you please give the Romanelli family and the employees of Burt’s Reliable time to grieve over this sad event,” Paul Romanelli said in his statement.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley called the Friday incident a “freak accident.”  Chief Flatley arrived at Mr. Romanelli’s company, Burt’s Reliable, on Youngs Avenue  just minutes after what was described as a quick flash fire at about 7:20 a.m. Friday.

A truck was delivering biofuel, a mixture of petroleum and organic fuels such as soybean oil, the chief said. Mr. Romanelli was heating a frozen pipe when a crack opened in the biofuel line and about 20 gallons of the mixture sprayed out and was ignited by what might have been a torch Mr. Romanelli was holding.

“A flame flashed really quickly, but didn’t continue burning,” the chief said.  But when Mr. Romanelli’s clothes remained on fire, several employees used fire extinguishers to douse the flames. After he was treated by Southold Fire Department first responders, Mr. Romanelli was airlifted to Stony Brook.

Fire chief Keith Cummings said Mr. Romanelli was caught in a significant fireball that left scorch marks 30 feet up on the canopy over the company’s unloading area.

The family issued a statement Monday saying Mr. Romanelli was stable, but still in critical condition.

“We cannot thank enough for the speedy work of the EMT’s and Fire personnel of the Southold Fire Department and the Southold Town Police Department. We are especially grateful for the fast work of Kevin Boergesson. We are also thankful for the two truck drivers and two unknown Good Samaritan women that stopped to aid John before the arrival of emergency personnel.”

The family said details of his funeral and memorial services are not yet available.