Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2008 22:21:27 -0500
Reply-To: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
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From: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Students burned in lab fire settle; Western Reserve Academy
agrees to pay $18.95 million to two seriously hurt in class
Comments: To: SAFETY**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU Students burned in lab fire settle Western Reserve Academy agrees to pay $18.95 million to two seriously hurt in class By Katie Byard Beacon Journal staff writer Published on Friday, Jan 18, 2008 Western Reserve Academy in Hudson has reached settlements totaling $18.95 million with two students seriously burned in a chemistry-lab fire two years ago. ''The most elementary of safety standards were ignored,'' said Akron attorney Paul Perantinides, who represented the students Calais Weber of Green and Cecelia Chen of Hudson and their families. ''This was a preventable tragedy for all involved,'' Perantinides said Thursday. Weber, now 17, was the most seriously injured in the fire at the private school. Burns covered 46 percent of her body. Weber was in the hospital from the day of the accident Jan. 23, 2006 until she was released in April 2006. Burns covered 18 percent of Chen's body. She was released from the hospital in February 2006. Weber and her family settled their lawsuit for $13.15 million. Chen, now 17, and her family received $5.8 million. Their cases did not go to court. The settlements were reached in December. The families and Perantinides' law firm are using at least $100,000 of the settlement to launch the Ohio Schools Science Safety Program, developed by Jack Gerlovich, a science-education professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Gerlovich's company's motto is ''The best safety tool is an informed science teacher,'' Perantinides said. Weber is attending Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., and Chen is enrolled at Harvard in Boston. ''The story really is the commitment these families made to their kids,'' Perantinides said. He praised the families for ''nurturing these young ladies, seeing them through their graduation and admittance'' to college. Sam Pratt, then 11, was also hospitalized with burns. He was in the chemistry lab with his mother, Julie Pratt, the instructor. Sam was burned over 37 percent of his body and spent 30 days in the hospital. Hudson Fire Chief Bob Carter said in a news conference in 2006 that the fire ignited when methanol vapors from a bottle met flame. The vapor ignited with a ''whoosh,'' described by some as a ''fireball,'' Carter said. The accident occurred during a demonstration by instructor Pratt to show the characteristic colors of various chemical salts when burned. Perantinides said in a court filing that Western Reserve had not provided safety training for Pratt, and that she ''did not abide by the science-lab contract signed by the students when she opened a jug of methanol near an open flame.'' Pratt had not provided goggles to any of the students, Perantinides said in a filing, despite a school policy that says ''goggles must be worn when using dangerous chemicals.'' Western Reserve spokesman Russell Morrison said Thursday that Pratt continues to teach at the school. He released a statement that said officials ''deeply regret'' the incident and that they hope the settlements ''will allow the individuals involved to continue to move on with their lives . . . '' The school said the settlements are covered by its insurance. The settlements will not affect the school's programs or finances ''going forward,'' the statement said. Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard**At_Symbol_Here** . Find this article at: Copyright 2007

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