Leafs’ Ceci being sued by burn victim of accident at party
- Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci and his common-law partner, Jamie Thompson, are being sued by a guest at a May 2018 dinner party
- Three professional hockey players and their partners gathered for a quiet dinner party in Stittsville early in their off-season.
- Cardwell and Engel, along with Ryan Van Stralen and his girlfriend, Emily, were dinner guests of Ottawa Senators defenceman Cody Ceci and his partner, Jamie Thompson.
- At that point, something terrible occurred.
- A gas lamp bottle caught fire and then a woman caught fire.
- In a moment, lives were changed and relationships forever altered.
- The victim, Hana Engel, has come forward this week to share her incredible story.
- In fact, while she continues to recover, Engel, 24, has scars and damage both physical and emotional that she will bear always, because of a few crazy seconds gone wrong at a backyard gathering.
- Nearly two full months after the fire that engulfed her body in flames, Engel still has mornings when she can barely move.
- Her alarm is the physical pain that kicks in as early as 5 a.m., her neck stiff, and a feeling of “X-Acto knives running through my chest.”
- Her boyfriend, former Ottawa 67’s defenceman Cardwell, 26, whose quick actions saved her life that night, continues to provide constant daily care, including hours of massage for her scars and tight skin, driving her to physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions.
- All while struggling to suppress the anger and frustration of this ongoing nightmare.
- The three couples were clustered around an outdoor table, Engel says, when Thompson noticed one of the fire pieces on the table was low on fuel.
- She returned with a bottle of fuel, squirted some into the fire piece but the live fire caught the stream of fuel and ran back up to the bottle, which erupted in flame.
- According to multiple people, Thompson squeezed the bottle, releasing more fuel, and then she instinctively threw the fiery bottle aside, hitting Engel directly.
- Now covered in fuel and fire, Engel went up in flames.
“She was a human candle,” said Marc-Antoine Deschamps, spokesman for the Ottawa Paramedic Service.
- Typical of someone on fire, Engel scrambled in panic.
“I ran like a chicken with my head cut off,” she says.
- For a moment, as she bolted toward the grass she thought of jumping into the hot tub.
- A firefighter told her later, if she had, she would have died instantly.
- Fortunately, her instinct to raise her arms, cover her face and purse her lips prevented fuel and fire inhalation.
- Engel was placed in a medically induced coma and required 18 hours of surgeries and skin grafts over three separate operations.
- She’s seeking $6 million for “loss of income, loss of competitive advantage in the marketplace, and loss of economic opportunities,” $500,000 for “pain and suffering, loss of amenities, and loss of enjoyment of life,” and $300,000 in damages for “loss of housekeeping and homemaking capacity.”
- Jake Cardwell, Engel’s partner and Ceci’s former teammate in junior, is also listed as a plaintiff.
- He’s seeking $500,000 for the value of “nursing, attendant care, and other services, including loss of income,” $200,000 in damages for “loss of care, guidance, and companionship,” and $200,000 for “nervous shock” and “intentional infliction of mental suffering and emotional distress.”
The lawsuit states: “Hana has undergone indescribable emotional trauma and personal upheaval” as a result of the incident, her injuries, scars, and impairments, which include emotional distress and post-traumatic stress inflicted “by the incident itself (and) by the complete and permanent change to Hana’s appearance.”
- Engel owned and operated a yoga studio in Ottawa but has been unable to return to work.
- The suit claims Ceci “failed to inform himself and Thompson of the hazards,” failed to warn the invited guests, and “failed to keep his premises safe.”
- It also claims both Thompson and Ceci were “intoxicated and unable to appreciate the danger and ought not to have used dangerous or ignitable objects such as the fireplace.”