Shop owner’s son finally speaks on milk tea deaths
“It’s bad enough that I have to deal with the death of my father. Now I am subjected to malicious lies out to ruin my reputation.”
This was the response of Lloyd Abrigo to reports insinuating that he had a hand in the death of his father William and Suzanne Dagohoy, and the hospitalization of her boyfriend Arnold Aydalla, in the alleged food poisoning incident at his family-owned milk tea shop in Manila last week.
The elder Abrigo and Dagohoy, a customer, collapsed within minutes and died after taking a sip of the “Hokkaido”-flavored milk tea Willam prepared at his ErgoCha shop in Sampaloc. Aydalla spent days in the hospital after he tasted the same beverage and spat it out because of the foul taste.
Meeting reporters at a Quezon City restaurant on Friday, Lloyd, accompanied by the family lawyer, read from a prepared statement giving his version of what happened after the three victims were rushed to Ospital ng Sampaloc shortly before noon of April 9.
Lloyd, 23, faced the media accompanied by his mother Adela, the registered owner of the shop. Through lawyer Hazel Naredo, they asked not to be photographed.
They said they also wanted to know the truth behind the incident, with Adela stressing that she understands what the families of the victims are going through as she has also lost William, her husband of almost 25 years.
Lloyd stressed that he had “nothing to do with the deaths of Dagohoy and my father” and went on to refute accounts attributed to Joseph Garnacio, the ErgoCha shop helper.
That Thursday, Lloyd said, Garnacio called him up to say that his father was brought to the hospital. “At that time, my father was still alive. I didn’t know what happened to him,” he said in Filipino. “I was certain that nothing bad was going to happen to him.”
About that foul smell
Upon reaching the hospital, he asked Garnacio what happened to his father and the helper simply replied: “’Yung milk tea (it’s the milk tea).” This prompted him to go to the shop on Bustillos Street, taking the helper with him, to see for himself what Garnacio meant, Lloyd said.
Lloyd said “a foul smell” wafted through the shop when he and Garnacio arrived.
Naredo later described the smell as something similar to that of “a dead rat.”
Lloyd said he also noticed that the store’s lights and fans were still on. He added that he also saw an empty pitcher on the table, belying reports that he washed a pitcher containing milk tea when he arrived.
“I decided to run water on [the pitcher] and close the store. I also threw the dishwater in the pail [outside the shop] since the sink was clogged,” Lloyd said.
He also denied that he tinkered with the closed-circuit television camera inside the store. Naredo added that the camera automatically shuts off as it is “motion-activated.”
‘It’s oolong tea’
Lloyd also said it wasn’t true that he brought chemicals to the store the night before the incident. “I asked him (Garnacio) for a container. I put water in it. The ‘chemical’ he was talking about was just tap water.”
He said the foul odor Garnacio claimed to have smelled on the night of April 8 may have come from the oolong tea he was brewing.
Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea variety derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, which can also be used to make black tea and green tea. Oolong tea is partially fermented, black tea is fully fermented, while green tea is unfermented.
Oolong tea is said to improve mental alertness and can be used to counter obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol, as well as boost the immune system.
“I was cooking oolong tea,” Lloyd said. “It has a smell so strong that someone not used to it may say it’s foul-smelling.”
He stressed that Garnacio “should know what happened first before he passes judgment.”
Naredo said the family could not yet produce documents indicating the source of the raw materials used at the shop since William supposedly kept them and “they don’t know where they are.”
“[It’s] the father who took care of everything. He (Lloyd) hardly goes there,” the lawyer told reporters.
Lloyd also noted that Garnacio, who had worked at the shop for at least two months, had a duplicate key to the place.
He said he was praying for the people “spreading rumors” about him, while asking them to “have pity on our family and stop the lies being spread in the news.”
That he immediately went to the Manila Police District (MPD) shortly after William died showed that “I did not do anything wrong.”
The MPD has yet to name a suspect in the incident pending the results of tests conducted on the contents of the victims’ stomach and on the milk tea samples. The Food and Drug Administration earlier this week said the samples sent by the MPD initially proved negative for toxic substances but that more tests were being conducted. With Inquirer Research
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