Discovery museum

Science experiment burns children at Reno Discovery Museum – The Mercury News

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A routine experiment designed to help children understand tornadoes erupted in a chemical flash, injuring 13 people, including children who suffered acid burns to their hands, arms and the face.

Emergency crews responded to a report of a possible explosion at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday at the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum in downtown Reno.

City of Reno spokesman Matthew Brown told The Associated Press that a preliminary investigation indicates it was not an explosion but a chemical flash, which is “similar if someone threw gasoline on a fire”. He said he couldn’t comment further on the distinction.

Eight children and one adult were taken to a Reno hospital with minor burns or smoke inhalation, the city of Brown said in a statement.

Four other people were treated at the scene, but their ages were not available, he said. Renown Regional Medical Center officials expected only one child to remain hospitalized overnight for observation and would likely be sent home Thursday, Brown said.

Reno Police Officer Tim Broadway said earlier that several children suffered acid burns to their hands, arms and face.

Officials said a mixture of methyl alcohol and boric acid was used at the daily exhibit to create a swirling tornado effect.

“The injuries are the result of an incident during a routine museum demonstration that simulates a tornado,” the city’s statement said Wednesday night. “Reno Fire Department investigators are working with museum staff to determine the cause of the chemical flash.”

“Our primary focus right now is Discovery customers and their safety,” Mat Sinclair, executive director of The Discovery, said in a statement. “All those affected by today’s incident continue to be in our thoughts and we are committed to determining the cause of this incident.”

KRNV-TV aired an amateur video posted on its Facebook page that offered a glimpse of the explosion inside the museum. Executed in slow motion, it appears to show a flash and flames falling from an experiment table and onto the floor several feet away from a group of children who screamed when it happened.

Reno resident Joey Sanchez told the AP he was at the museum but did not see the flash.

As he and his 3.5-year-old son returned from the toilet, he saw smoke and children with wounds that looked like small red circles. Sanchez said he saw a child crying with an ice pack on his face.

“It didn’t smell of something catching on fire, it smelled of chemicals burning,” he said.

Reno Fire Chief Mike Hernandez said the museum was evacuated, but the building did not appear to have suffered any further damage. A sign on the door said it would reopen as scheduled at 10 a.m. Thursday.

A hazmat team responded to the scene to ensure the explosion did not spew toxic gases throughout the museum, Hernandez said. He said the injured were taken to hospital within 15 minutes. The street outside the museum across from the federal courthouse was temporarily closed but reopened after 6:30 p.m.


Associated Press writer Courtney Bonnell in Phoenix contributed to this article.