An 81-year-old Cortez woman suffered a concussion at City Market on Friday when a sprinkler head that was part of a voluntary recall spontaneously failed.
Cortez Fire Chief Jay Balfour on Saturday said the woman was standing under or near the sprinkler head when it “popped,” spraying water on top of her head and causing her to fall and hit the back of her head on the floor.
The woman’s son said the family is not currently seeking legal recourse against City Market.
“My parents’ main concern, because they were both there, is that sprinkler system needs to get fixed over there before somebody gets killed,” the injured woman’s son said.
He said the sprinkler head “blew apart in pieces” and sprayed a black substance on his mother’s head. The man requested anonymity.
Balfour said a slimy black substance is “very common” in sprinkler discharge. The water in sprinkler pipes is not circulated, Balfour said, and can become discolored.
He said he is not familiar with any issues with the fire suppression system or electrical systems at City Market, but he is aware that sprinkler heads have failed in the past at the grocery store.
Sean Canada, city of Cortez fire and building inspector, said two other sprinkler heads have failed at City Market in the past seven years.
He said all three incidents involved older sprinkler heads that were involved in a voluntary recall several years ago. A solder joint designed to break apart at a certain temperature didn’t quite look right, Canada said.
“There could be the one in 1 million that pops, so they make a voluntary recall,” Canada said. “It wasn’t enough to make a mandatory recall, but the company apparently decided that wasn’t their best design.”
In response to the voluntary recall, he said City Market replaced any heads that were not up to par.
Canada said the sprinkler head that popped on Friday was part of the voluntary recall but was not replaced. He said it was one of the original sprinkler heads.
The grocery store was closed for about two hours on Friday afternoon as firefighters secured the facility and employees mopped up a few hundred gallons of water.
A City Market store manager directed The Journal to the Kroger office in Denver for comment. A Kroger representative did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday,