A HAZMAT trailer was sent to the scene and HAZMAT technicians worked with professors to neutralize the chemical.
MURRAY, Ky. — Three people were injured Tuesday following a chemistry lab explosion at Murray State University.
Shortly before 12:30 p.m., campus police and emergency crews responded to a report of a chemical leak at Jesse D. Jones Hall, reports KFVS. Social media posts by the school warned people to stay out of the area until further notice. Two hours later, the university said there was “no immediate danger” to the building. However, three science complexes, Chemistry, Biology, and the School of Engineering/Engineering and Physics, remained closed for the rest of the day.
A statement released by the school later in the day said three people who were in the building were treated at Murray-Calloway County Hospital before being released. Their injuries have not been disclosed.
Murray Fire Chief Eric Pologruto said the initial call to the fire department came in as a fire alarm, according to The Murray Ledger. Firefighters learned additional details as they arrived on the scene.
“When we had been there for maybe a few minutes, someone actually walked up to one of our drivers of the fire truck, one of the pump operators who was still outside, and informed them, ‘Hey, there’s actually been an explosion inside,’” Pologruto described. “It kind of caught everyone off guard a little bit since they were originally going there for what they thought was just a fire alarm. The fire alarm system did go off; however, the fact that we were there when we were told there was actually an explosion changed everything for us pretty quick.”
Pologruto said once the crew found out that a chemistry class was going on when the explosion occurred, it turned into a hazardous materials call and the department’s HAZMAT trailer and HAZMAT technicians were sent to the scene.
Initial efforts focused on evacuating the building, Pologruto continued, and then the crew met with the chemistry professors who were leading the class. The professors shared details about the chemical that was involved, which was lithium aluminum hydride, and the group developed a plan to successfully neutralize the chemical and ventilate the area.
“It’s a common chemical that they use in labs, but the byproduct of that when it’s heated is hydrogen gas,” Pologruto said. “It’s not an atypical substance that they use in the lab, and according to the professors, they use it all the time for their experiments and lab work education. They just had a problem with it this time.”
Pologruto said he could not speak to the size of the explosion but said it was isolated to one classroom. The investigation has been handed over to the State Fire Marshal since it has jurisdiction over any incident that occurs at a state-owned facility.
Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.
Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.
In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family.
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