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Former Marmion student sues over science experiment

Published: Saturday, May 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 18, 2013 8:24 a.m. CDT

AURORA – A former Marmion Academy student is suing the school, alleging negligence in a science experiment in which he claimed he was injured after he slipped and fell on his face when he was set on fire.

In court papers filed recently in Kane County, Zachary Bennett, now 18, alleges the private college-prep school at 1000 Butterfield Road, Aurora, was negligent in allowing a science teacher to create a dangerous situation in which Bennett was injured.

The suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages, asserting Bennett suffered permanent injuries to his face and teeth, incurred medical bills and suffered pain and emotional distress because of the school’s negligence. According to court records, the first court date for the case is Aug. 1.

Through a spokesman, the school’s headmaster James Quaid, would not comment. Bennett’s attorney did not return a message seeking comment. The science teacher’s school voicemail was full, so a message could not be left. A message left on a home answering machine was not returned.

The injury occurred while Bennett attended Marmion in 2010 as a junior, and was part of a group project to create an experiment. According to the lawsuit, chemistry teacher Steven Bush approved the proposed experiment –  to coat parts of their bodies with a layer of polyacrylate solution as a heat barrier below a layer of soap bubbles filled with methane gas, then ignite the methane soap bubbles.

On May 11, 2010, the experiment was performed under Bush’s supervision. The materials first were applied to Bennett’s hands, then expanded to his entire body, first while lying down – without impressive results – then standing up, according to the lawsuit.

Bennett’s entire body was covered with the polyacrylate solution and soap bubbles filled with methane gas while he stood on a gym towel and was ignited again, the suit states.

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 stated.

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