Eleven primary school children and their teacher were injured on Monday when their “routine” outdoor science experiment went wrong in Sydney.
Two of the pupils, who were all aged between 10 and 11, suffered serious burns and were taken to Westmead children’s hospital after the accident at Manly West public school on Sydney’s northern beaches.
The nine other students, who were less badly injured, were taken to the Royal North Shore and Northern Beaches hospitals.
The class was taking part in a science experiment known as a “black snake”, which uses baking soda, a sugar mixture and methylated spirits to create a chemical reaction.
When set alight, the mixture reacts and a tower of snake-like black material appears to climb out of the dish. But a sudden gust of wind blew some of the hot material back onto the pupils and their teacher.
“The children have sustained burns to the upper body, chest, face and legs,” Phil Templeman, Acting Superintendent of the New South Wales Ambulance Service, told reporters.
“I’m of the understanding it’s a fairly routine science experiment that is conducted within schools, and the winds today have hampered that particular experiment and caused a bigger reaction than was expected,” he said.
“Thankfully the majority of the students were not badly injured.”
A fellow student said her friend who was hurt described the incident as “very scary”.
“It was just meant to be a little science experiment, but it got a bit out of hand,” she told Nine News.
The accident prompted a major emergency with two helicopters, police, fire appliances and a fleet of ambulances in attendance.
The male teacher suffered minor burns but did not need hospital attention.
My thoughts are with all the students and staff at Manly West Public School after the horrible accident today.I’ve spoken to the principal and expressed my thanks to her for the actions of all involved in supporting the students and staff who were hurt.
— Dom Perrottet (@Dom_Perrottet) November 21, 2022
Police established a crime scene and took photographs of an empty bottle.
Sarah Mitchell, NSW Education and Early Learning Minister, thanked staff and the local community “who acted so quickly to provide first aid and call emergency services”.
“My thoughts are with the students and staff affected by today’s incident at Manly West public school,” she said.
An inquiry will investigate if it was wise to have conducted the experiment in such weather conditions.
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