Teacher fired after lab accident at school burns 4

AP News
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Posted: Oct 07, 2014 6:26 PM

DENVER (AP) — A chemistry teacher has been fired after four students were burned, one seriously, when a fire erupted in a Denver high school chemistry laboratory while the teacher was conducting a demonstration with methanol, a school spokeswoman said Tuesday.

A letter was sent to parents notifying them that teacher Daniel Powell no longer works at the school, and all lab demonstrations have been suspended, said Lindsay Neil, spokeswoman for the Science, Math and Arts Academy charter school.

Powell could not be located for comment. Neil said the firing is a personnel matter and said she could not comment further.

Three of the students are back in school and the fourth student, who was not identified, continues to improve, she said. "He has a long road ahead of him. We are providing counseling to students and faculty," Neil said.

School officials are cooperating with several agencies investigating the Sept. 15 accident, she said.

Officials said the teacher was conducting a demonstration with methanol when the accident occurred.

Powell suffered minor injuries to his hands and declined medical treatment, Neil said after the accident.

It was the second time in a month that a fire linked to methanol in a science demonstration caused injuries. Thirteen people, many of them children, were hurt in a flash fire at a Reno, Nevada, museum on Sept. 3. An employee applied chemicals in the wrong order in a demonstration simulating a tornado, officials said.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency that investigates chemical accidents, issued a warning against using methanol in laboratory and school demonstrations, citing the Nevada fire. It wasn't clear if the warning was issued before the Denver fire.

No students were handling materials when the fire broke out during a chemistry class that included 10th- and 11th-graders, Neil said.

The teacher had conducted the same demonstration several times during the previous couple of days, Neil said.

The school, known as the SMART Academy, is part of the Strive Preparatory School network that operates in the Denver system. Neil said it was Powell's first year teaching in the network.