Customer, family react to food poisoning death tied to West Lafayette restaurant

(WLFI Photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The food poisoning death of a Lafayette man is being linked to a West Lafayette restaurant. Local and national health officials made that determination.

The Tippecanoe County Health Department said four people got food poisoning shortly after eating at Agave Azul on Oct. 22, 2016. Sixty-six-year-old Alexander Zdravich died four days later.

His step-son, Adam Brickler said, “We understand accidents happen, but it certainly is something that’s preventable.”

Zdravich was hospitalized the night he ate at Agave Azul. Despite aggressive medical treatment, Tippecanoe County Coroner Donna Avolt said Zdravich died from food poisoning.

The Tippecanoe County Health Department said it is “highly likely” the food came from Agave Azul.

Brickler said it’s a difficult situation for his family.

“Yes we’re angry and frustrated about that situation, that they’re still open,” Brickler said, “On the other hand, we also are pretty just consumed with feeling sad for missing Alex.”

The day after Zdravich’s death, county health inspectors collected food samples prepared at Agave Azul. The Food and Drug Administration was unable to confirm the presence of a specific bacteria in the samples. The FDA said significant delays during testing may have impacted the accuracy of the tests.

Customer John Hannigan says he comes to Agave Azul about once every two weeks.

“I’m sorry for their family, but I think my experience has been different,” said Hannigan. “I’ve had good luck with their food, I’ve not had any problems with it.”

Hannigan said he will continue to eat at Agave Azul.

“I’m going in today,” he said.

The health department told Agave Azul’s owner, Jose Bustos, that he should voluntarily close until the investigation was complete. They also suggested he clean the restaurant and throw out all of the food.

According to Tippecanoe County Health Department Administrator Craig Rich, the business did close five days for cleaning.

The Tippecanoe County Health Department inspected Agave Azul five times from October through February. It said those inspections revealed several deficiencies in food handling practices.

“It was highly likely that something consumed by a patron there contributed to his death,” Brickler said. “And they have other instances in which there were infractions over the last few months that, that would be grounds to force them to close.”

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