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The 'Rainbow Experiment' Went Wrong. Now, a $60M Payout

Ex-high school student Alonzo Yanes suffered 3rd-degree burns over 30% of his body
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2019 8:05 AM CDT
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Davizro)

(Newser) – Anna Poole was simply trying to show her high school chemistry class the "Rainbow Experiment," which illustrates how mineral salts change color when an accelerant, usually methanol, is poured on. But the 2014 experiment went wrong, one of her students was severely burned by the resulting fireball, and a New York City jury has now found Poole and the city's Education Department liable, the New York Times reports. The jury awarded Alonzo Yanes, now 21, almost $60 million for the accident, which took place when he was a sophomore at Beacon High School. The experiment's flames caused third-degree burns on about 30% of his body, per the New York Post, leaving scarring and even permanently altering his sweat glands so he now can't sweat from certain parts of his body. Yanes was hospitalized for five months after the fire, receiving skin grafts and other treatment.

"I was hopelessly burning alive, and I couldn't put myself out," he told jurors during the trial. "The pain was so unbearable." Poole was the only one said to be wearing goggles during the experiment. Yanes' legal team also argued that students were seated too closely to the demo, and that Poole poured the highly volatile methanol from a gallon container instead of releasing it a drop at a time. Poole no longer teaches in the classroom (she now does administrative work) and won't be held personally liable for the damages awarded to Yanes. Two other ex-students also received settlements in May in the case: Julia Saltonstall was given $750,000 after suffering third-degree burns on her right arm, while court filings note Sara Salitan got $400,000 for the "emotional and psychological" trauma she suffered, per the New York Daily News. (Read more accident stories.)

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