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Yale Student Michele Dufault Killed In Lab Accident

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Michele Dufault (credit: Video Still/CBS 2)

Michele Dufault (credit: Video Still/CBS 2)

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NEW HAVEN, CT (AP/CBSNewYork) - A Yale University student nearing graduation was killed inside a school lab when her hair was pulled into a piece of machine-shop equipment, an official said Wednesday.

WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane: Yale Isn’t Saying Exactly What Happened

Sterling Chemistry Laboratory at Yale University - New Haven, CT - Apr 13, 2011 - (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

Sterling Chemistry Laboratory at Yale University - New Haven, CT - Apr 13, 2011 - (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

Michele Dufault, a senior majoring in astronomy, died Tuesday night “in what appears to have been a terrible accident involving a piece of equipment,” school officials said Wednesday. The school said the accident took place inside a chemistry lab machine shop but didn’t say what the equipment was.

“By all reports, Michele was an exceptional young woman, an outstanding student and young scientist, a dear friend and a vibrant member of this community,” Yale Vice President Linda Lorimer wrote in a message to Yale students and faculty. “We will find ways in the next day to gather to celebrate her life and grieve her loss.”

The university told the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration that Dufault was operating the machinery for a senior project when she was killed, according to Kang Yi, an assistant area director for OSHA in Bridgeport, Conn.

OSHA was reviewing jurisdiction in the case and evaluating whether it would conduct an inspection, said Ted Fitzgerald, an agency spokesman in Boston.

Dufault was from Scituate, Mass., and was graduating in a month, said her grandfather Robert Dufault. She studied constantly and loved sports, he said.

“She was a living saint,” the grandfather said. “She was a good, smart girl.”

An uncle called her brilliant.

“She’s a wonderful, wonderful kid and that should be celebrated. There’s nothing but good things to say about her,” said Frederick Dufault of Holliston, Mass.

On its website, Yale’s chemistry department says it maintains a state-of-the-art machine shop to allow students, faculty and staff to construct or modify research instruments. Access is limited to those who have completed a shop course, according to the website.

Yale was offering counseling to students. The lab was closed Wednesday and classes were canceled in the building that houses the lab.

Yale police are leading the investigation, New Haven police spokesman Joe Avery said.

“People move a bit slower and things move a bit, like, differently,” Wang told WCBS 880 reporter Paul Murnaner. “I do think that the campus does seem a little heavier.”

A student who knew Michele said she was a great community force involved in the Yale precision marching band.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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