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Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused a homemade rocket attached to a skateboard to explode, killing one Southern California high school student and injuring another.

It is believed that eighteen-year-old Bernard Moon, a chemistry buff, and his friend were testing out the homemade rocket as an engine when the rocket exploded around 7:30 p.m. in an open courtyard-type area of an elementary school. At the time of the blast, a group of about parents were attending a Girl Scout meeting at the school. They said it sounded like huge explosion. Many rushed to the scene to try a render aid while a school janitor called 911. Both victims were transported to Los Robles Hospital where Moon was pronounced dead a short while later. The other teen remains hospitalized, but expected to recover.

According to investigators, the rocket, approximately a foot long and three-quarters of an inch in diameter, was meant to go horizontally to propel a skateboard. Details of the rocket’s design and the chemicals used is still under investigation. It is also unclear whether Moon was working on a project for an upcoming science fair or his AP Physics class, but the experiment does not appear to have been sanctioned by any school and the teens were unsupervised at the time of the explosion.

Could this accident have been prevented? Where the students familiar with how to use the chemicals in a safe and responsible fashion?

Anytime chemicals are used, even in a lab setting, there are risks involved. But, these risks can be minimized, even avoided, by understanding the chemicals involved. Every chemical has its own Safety Data Sheet (SDS) containing a wealth of information in a simple, easy-to-read format. Within each SDS are safety precautions needed to handle the chemical properly, as well as any potential health hazards. But an SDS does not address the possible hazards that could occur as a chemical reaction moves forward. To help reduce the risks of injuries or death, it is important that the experiment be conducted with adult supervision. It is equally important that everyone involved wear proper safety attire – lab coat, chemical-resistant gloves and chemical safety goggles, and dispose of chemicals/hazardous materials properly. It is often said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but when it comes to chemicals, a little knowledge can save your life!

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.


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