About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use Accuracy & Fairness Corrections & Clarifications Ethics Code Your Ad Choices
© MEAWW All rights reserved

'I made a mistake': School principal breaks down in court after student suffered 3rd-degree burns in botched chemistry experiment

The student, Alonzo Yanes, who is now 21, testified that the accident had left him scarred and bereft of confidence, and that he would never get used to it
UPDATED JUN 25, 2019

The principal of a school where a teacher is now being sued by a student who sustained horrific burns after a chemistry experiment went awry broke down in tears during her testimony.

It was 2014 when Alonzo Yanes sustained third-degree burns on 30 percent of his body while taking part in a "Rainbow Experiment" in a lab at the Beacon School in Manhattan that was ill-equipped, according to the Daily Mail.

Five years later, now 21, Yanes is suing the Department of Education and the chemistry teacher, Anna Poole, in a $27 million lawsuit where he claims the burns have left him so unhappy and with such low confidence, that he's never had sex!

On Monday, June 24, following the testimony by Yanes and an expert called in by the prosecution, principal Ruth Lacey took to testify.

“I made a mistake,” Lacey said on the witness stand. She also admitted that the staff weren’t properly briefed on safety standards.

This was after, Samuella Sigmann, a professor at Appalachian State University, told the court that the experiment — which involves the burning of mineral salts to produce multicolor flames — should have been never been conducted because of a lack of necessary equipment.

Sigmann said the lab did not have a fume hood — a ventilated enclosure where harmful and volatile chemicals can be used and kept — and that "there was a clear and present hazard and they ignored it."

An expert testified that the school's lab was not equipped well enough to conduct the experiment (Source: Google Maps)

She also testified that there were no fire blankets, shower, or eyewash and that the teenagers, who were just two or three feet away from the demonstration table, should have been at least eight feet away. 

The court also heard of how Poole had never used a fire extinguisher before the incident with Yanes, and that in the entire class, she was the only one wearing protective eye goggles.

The jury was shown graphic images of the injuries Yanes sustained, and during his testimony, the 21-year-old described his pain at having to live with his new appearance. "The way that I look, it gets in the way too much," he said. "I don't think the scars are very attractive."

He said that after five years, he was still not used to people "gawking" at him, saying, "I will never get used to that. It still hurts tremendously. The world wasn’t very accepting of the way that I physically looked."

"Not a single day passes by when I don't think about my injuries or what my life would have been if I wasn't involved in that injury," he added.  His mother, Yvonne, similarly told the jury she was forced to warn Yanes' younger sister, who was just seven at the time, about the change in her brother's appearance and that he "did not look the same anymore".

She said she told her daughter that her brother "will probably look very scary to you" and that "he will probably look like a monster, like Frankenstein".