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Chemical Safety Board: UWS High School Lab Accident Was Preventable

The Beacon School (credit: beaconschool.org)

The Beacon School (credit: beaconschool.org)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The U.S. Chemical Safety Board urged schools to take proper precautions with laboratory chemicals, after two students at an Upper West Side high school were injured in an explosion earlier this week.

The accident happened just after 9 a.m. Thursday at the Beacon School on West 61st Street. The incident happened as a 10th grade chemistry teacher was conducting an experiment with colored chemicals in bowls.

“I think she might have put too much and I just saw a huge fire,” 10th grader Jeremy Reynoso told CBS 2’s John Slattery. “Luckily, the kids at the front table were able to actually duck and get out of the way.”

Both injured students were taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Fire Department says one student is in serious condition and the other suffered minor injuries.

Students identified one of the injured students as Alonzo Yanes, who suffered second-degree burns to the face, neck and arm, Slattery reported. A girl also suffered first-degree burns, Slattery reported.

The Chemical Safety Board said the flash fire incident was all too similar to one that was highlighted in a recent safety message the agency put out.

The message entitled “After the Rainbow” features accident survivor Calais Weber, who talked about how she was burned over 40 percent of her body during a chemistry demonstration performed by her teacher at a prestigious Ohio boarding school in January 2006.

As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, the video was released just weeks ago.

“It was called the rainbow experiment,” Weber explained in the video. “It was meant to show how different chemicals burn at different light frequencies.”

She said the incident was horrifying.

“I remember thinking, ‘I’m on fire — oh my gosh, I’m on fire,’” Weber said in the video.

The board called the Thursday incident “yet another example of a preventable incident and a reminder of the need for exacting safety measures to protect students and school property.”

“As Calais states in the safety message, her accident should never have occurred, and that with better attention to good safety practices, similar accidents can also be avoided,” the board said in a statement. “She says, ‘It feels with this type of injury that you’ve had so much taken away from you unnecessarily and to keep reading about other people who have had very similar experiences, it’s tragic and shouldn’t happen.’”

The New York Times reported over the past decade, similar experiments also have injured teachers and students in Texas and Seattle.

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