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Teens Burned in Chem Lab Fire

Huntington Beach High School students are badly injured in a blaze on the last day of school. Surgeries are scheduled, and 'prayers are needed.'

June 18, 2005|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Two Huntington Beach High School students were seriously burned Friday when a fire flared as they worked in a chemistry lab on the last day of the school year.

Brian Cross, 17, and Tyler Haureiter, 16, were taken to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana. Cross was in serious condition with second- and third-degree burns over 38% of his body, mostly on the upper torso.

Haureiter was in fair condition with head and neck burns.

"A lot of prayers are needed," said Dr. A. Richard Grossman, who was overseeing the boys' treatment at the hospital's burn center.

"They never will be the way they were before. But our job is to make them as close [to that] as possible."

Details of what happened in the 7:30 a.m. college preparatory chemistry class were sketchy. School officials said only that the accident had resulted "from a supervised classroom chemistry lesson."

Grossman said the injuries, involving methyl alcohol, were caused by fire, not chemicals, and that Cross was closer to the flames than Haureiter, who was "a step or two" back.

Huntington Beach Fire Department investigators spent most of the day interviewing witnesses and collecting materials to determine the cause of the fire.

Martha Werth, a spokeswoman for the Fire Department, said it appeared that the flare-up occurred during a science demonstration for about 40 students.

She said it was unclear whether the students or the teacher were handling the chemicals.

"We don't know what kind of an experiment it was," Werth said, "but it was something that this particular teacher has done many times."

Principal David Linzey said the school also was investigating.

Both boys are scheduled for skin graft surgery Monday, Grossman said, with Cross probably needing at least one more operation later in the week. The doctor said that the burns -- especially those suffered by Cross -- could take more than a year to heal.

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Times staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.

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