A former New York City student has been awarded more than $59 million after a 2014 chemistry demonstration engulfed him in flames.
On Monday, a Manhattan jury granted the hefty payout to 21-year-old Alonzo Yanes, who was just 16 when the life-altering accident occurred at Beacon High School, the New York Daily News reported.
In January 2014, during Yanes’ sophomore year, instructor Anna Poole was showing her students the so-called “rainbow experiment,” which involves combining a flammable liquid ― in this case, methanol ― with mineral salts, then igniting the mixture to produce colorful flames.
According to The Associated Press, Poole used a gallon jug to pour the methanol. A fireball shot out, enveloping Yanes, who recalled “hopelessly burning alive” as he felt the fire “charring me the way a piece of meat chars in a frying pan.”
Hospitalized for five months, the teen had to endure skin graft surgeries for injuries that covered 30% of his body, stretching from his face to his neck, arms and hands.
Yanes’ parents, Claudio and Yvonne, wept while describing how they were unable to identify their own son in a hospital burn unit, the Daily News reported.
The jury found both the Department of Education and Poole at fault for the accident. According to The New York Times, the financial restitution is intended to cover Yanes’ pain and suffering as well as his medical bills.
The rainbow experiment has long been deemed a safety hazard in classrooms as accidents have been documented in other states.
In 2015, two students suffered serious burns in a Fairfax County, Virginia high school and three others were hospitalized when the demonstration went awry.
In 2006, an Ohio teen was left with severe burns covering nearly half her body in a similar case.
In 2004, authorities say a teacher and student at a high school in Federal Way, Washington, suffered third-degree burns on their faces, heads, arms and hands due to the experiment. A second student was also burned, though not as extensively.
According to the AP, attorneys for New York City said the experiment is no longer being conducted in any of its schools as a result of Yanes’ experience.