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Two Hurt As Experiment Explodes

August 12, 2002

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WEST JEFFERSON, Ohio (AP) _ An explosives experiment blew up at an institute that does much research for the military, critically injuring two researchers with burns and shrapnel wounds, authorities said.

Jim Gombarcik and Tom Burky were combining materials Sunday afternoon at Battelle Memorial Institute’s research center when the explosion happened, spokeswoman Katy Delaney said. Battelle is the world’s largest independent, nonprofit research institute.

``These are very experienced guys with this sort of thing, and we do this type of research all of the time,″ she said.

Gombarcik, 30, of Delaware, was flown by helicopter to Ohio State Medical Center, where he was in critical condition Monday morning. Hospital spokesman Ken Philips said he was burned over a third of his body and doctors had to remove debris from his eyes. Burky, 34, of Johnstown, was in critical condition at another hospital.

The men work for a Battelle division that researches security technology, munitions and explosives, Delaney said. She did not know what type of substances they were combining in a device that resembles a cement mixer.

The explosion happened inside a sealed ``blast chamber,″ a room constructed from materials that can withstand such an explosion, Delaney said. The building is on the institute’s 1,000-acre campus about 15 miles west of Columbus.

The cause of the explosion was under investigation.

The division often conducts research projects for the Department of Defense, but this experiment was part of internal research Battelle performs to develop its own products.

The institute has had a hand in creating such common inventions as the compact disc and bar codes on products. It also worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb, and government contracts represent almost 90 percent of its revenue.


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