Science Experiment Goes Awry At Reno Museum; Explosion Injures Six Kids

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A science demonstration that normally takes place several times each day at a museum in Reno went awry Wednesday, causing an explosion that injured 13 people – including at least six children, CNN is reporting.

The explosion – or, “chemical flash,” as the museum is calling it – took place at the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum in downtown Reno during a routine demonstration of a tornado simulation, Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

As of this post, it’s unclear exactly how many children were injured in the explosion: various sources have listed the number between six and nine. Reno Officer Tim Broadway told CNN:

“There were seven children and two adults taken to the hospital with chemical burns to their arms, hands and face. None of the injuries are life-threatening, but we do not know their exact condition.”

During the demonstration, a museum scientist was mixing methyl alcohol and boric acid, a mixture that, if handled properly, creates a swirling flame that resembles a tornado. This is not the same phenomenon that is known as a “fire tornado” (see this Inquisitr article).

However, something went wrong, and instead the chemicals ignited on the floor, spreading out as children tried to jump out of the way. One witness, Jackie Rider, told KOLO-TV (Reno):

“We were watching fire tornadoes and it exploded. It was terrifying. The one tornado wasn’t going, no one really thought anything of it and then [the scientist] was like, ‘I forgot to add this’ and added it, then everything exploded.”

Jackie’s two daughters, 6-year-old Hayden and 4-year-old River, were treated for second-degree burns. Her nephew, Logan, was treated for first-degree burns. Her niece, Caylee, was hurt the worst, with third-degree burns on her face.

Reno resident Joey Sanchez was also at the museum at the time of the explosion. He told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he saw smoke, crying children, and several injured kids with what looked like “little red circles.”

Executive director for The Discovery, Mat Sinclair, said in a statement:

“Our primary focus right now is on Discovery patrons and their safety. All those affected by today’s incident continue to be in our thoughts, and we are committed to determining the cause of this incident.”

The museum also posted the following tweet:

No damage was done to any of the museum’s structure or facilities. The museum was closed for the day after the explosion. As of this post, the museum’s website does not address the issue of the explosion, or whether or not the museum will reopen today.

Image courtesy of: CNN