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posted: 5/16/2013 5:56 PM

Marmion Academy sued over science experiment gone awry

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A Marmion Academy student has sued for injuries he suffered during a May 2010 science experiment in which his body was coated with a protective compound and lit on fire.

Zachary Bennett, 18, of Aurora, argues a science teacher was negligent when he changed an experiment: Instead of coating Bennett's hand, the teacher decided to coat Bennett's entire body.

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According to the lawsuit, the May 11, 2010 experiment, was approved by a chemistry teacher at the private Aurora high school and began with Bennett putting a polyacrylate solution on his hand to act as a heat barrier below a layer of soap bubbles filled with methane gas.

The bubbles were then ignited and the solution protected Bennett's hand. Some of the solution and soapy water got on the floor, so someone put a towel down for Bennett to stand on.

Teacher and class wanted to expand the experiment by putting the solution on Bennett's entire body, according to the suit.

Bennett put on swim trunks, ski goggles and a swimming cap, and his body was coated with the solution while he was laying flat on his back, according to the suit. The methane bubbles were lit on fire and Bennett was not injured.

But the class and teacher were "unimpressed" with the experiment and the teacher "encouraged" Bennett to do the experiment again -- while standing up.

"Mr. Bennett panicked when the resulting burst of fire went upwards toward his face, took a step backwards off of the towel, slipped on the combination of soapy water and polyacrylate solution covering the floor, and fell forward hitting his face on the floor," the suit states.

The lawsuit argues that Bennett suffered injuries to his face and teeth and that the teacher was negligent and failed in his responsibility to keep the classroom safe.

Officials at Marmion Academy did not respond to requests for comment.

Messages left for Bennett's attorney Michael Clancy were not immediately returned; Bennett's mother declined to comment when reached by phone.

Both sides are due in court on Aug. 1. Bennett seeks a jury trial and more than $50,000 damages.

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