A flask exploded during an experiment in professor Benajmin Hafensteiner’s Chemistry 132 class on Jan. 23 around 10:45am, leaving Hafensteiner with minor cuts on his arm and little finger and sophomore Dixon Butera with a small cut near his eye. It caused no other damage.

Hafensteiner explained, “I was running an experiment where we add sodium metal to water and that creates sodium hydroxide and hydrogen gas and heat. And the reaction exploded.” He noted that he has run the same reaction many times and an explosion has never happened before.

“Immediately after the explosion I asked students if everybody in the front row was okay, saw that somebody wasn’t, and asked somebody in the audience to call [Public Safety],” he recalled.

Butera, who was sitting in the front row and was cut by a piece of the flask, said, “I felt something on my face but I didn’t know what it was. I touched my face, I felt something fall down and I looked down and […] it was like non-stop. It was too much blood. I couldn’t see. The blood went deeply into my eye. I thought I was blind.”

“The paramedics arrived, then the police; they took pictures and flushed my eye,” he continued.

The piece of the flask did not hit his eyeball, and Butera said that the injury is “healing really fast […] it’s doing so much better.” He added, “I don’t blame [Dr. Hafensteiner] at all.”

Hafensteiner apologized to the class via email later that day and as a result of the explosion, the class was moved from Hoyt Auditorium into Hubbell Auditorium. He noted that Hubbell “is better equipped with a safety shower in the room next door and with better access to blast shields and protective equipment so that experiments and demonstrations in classes can be more safely done.”

Hafensteiner said, “I’m very happy that everybody’s okay and the class did a really good job of responding to all my requests when the explosion happened, so everybody was calm and moved out of class quickly and quietly and it was impressive. They did a good job.”

Lai is a member of

the class of 2018. 

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