Classroom explosion remains a mystery


Staff writer

Federal Way Public Schools officials are still investigating the cause of an explosion in the sixth-period Principles of Science class at Federal Way High School last Friday that injured three students and a teacher.

Teacher Ingrid Lyden and student Thomas Ziffino, a junior, remained in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Monday. Two other students were treated and released Friday at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. All suffered burn injuries.

Senior Amanda Lott and junior Mallory Crist, who both are in the Principles of Science class, said class hadn’t been in session more than 10 minutes when the explosion occurred.

Lyden, who’s been a science and chemistry teacher at Federal Way High for 17 years, was conducting a common experiment to show how mineral salts cause different colors in the environment, Federal Way Public Schoolseach beaker contained dissolved mineral salts, and Lyden was adding methanol to them.

The girls said Lyden added more of the second liquid, the methanol, to each beaker, and the experiment worked when she touched a flame to the first five beakers.

The sixth beaker, which Lott said had fumes coming from it, exploded. It blew flames into the front row of the class, though Lott said only a couple people were burned.

Students began screaming and ran out of the classroom, the girls said, toppling desks that blocked the way for students behind them. Lott said some students were trampling others and someone stepped on her side in their haste to evacuate the room.

When she looked back, she said, she saw Lyden’s hair, shoulder and arm in flames and a male student on fire. Ziffino had run forward with his jacket to try to extinguish the flames, the girls said.

“I just looked back into the room and saw people on fire,” Lott said.

Crist said the chalkboard, the desk where Lyden was working and a lot of the surrounding area were black. “There was fire,” she said. “Papers were burning.”

Though the school was evacuated just after sixth period, the final period of the day, a basketball game was held on schedule Friday evening at the school.

Students were expected to return to the science classroom Tuesday with a substitute teacher, Turner said.

Crisis counselors were available on Saturday and Monday to work with kids who were hesitant to return to the room. Turner said those who didn’t want to go back would be transferred to another room.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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