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Teacher’s Experiment Explodes, Hurts 17 Students

February 25, 1987

SALEM, Ill. (AP) _ A teacher’s chemistry experiment spewed burning liquid on her students, injuring 17, and officials waited today for word on whether two boys would lose their sight.

The accident Tuesday at Franklin Park Junior High School occurred as the class gathered around a bucket on the sidewalk for a demonstration by teacher Sue Gates.

″It caught fire, and it splattered,″ said Christoper Mills, 15, whose face was burned. ″It was just like white stuff exploding in the air. Everybody started screaming.

″A couple of kids were on fire,″ he said. ″They took us to the shower to wash us off, and then the ambulances came.″

Police dispatcher Kevin Molenhour said he believed the experiment involved mixing of sodium and water. Sodium can react violently when it comes in contact with water.

Five students, including Mills, were reported in satisfactory condition at Salem Hospital. Twelve others were treated and released. Most of the injured had first- or second-degree burns on the face.

Craig Infield, 14, and Chris Norman, 12, had chemical burns to the face and eyes, said hospital spokesman Ron Evans. He said both boys were resting, and no prognosis on their injuries would be made until today.

School Superintendent Galen Brant said Mrs. Gates came to the school as a science teacher last month with seven or eight years’ experience. A man who answered the telephone at her home said she had no comment.

Only Mrs. Gates was wearing goggles during the demonstration, Brant said.

″The others were only observing and were not conducting the demonstration from what I understand,″ said Brant. ″Therefore they were not required to wear goggles.″

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