A student who was badly injured during a science experiment gone wrong in a New York classroom in 2014 said he was “hopelessly burning alive.”
Alonzo Yanes, 21, testified in Manhattan Supreme Court about the harrowing incident on Tuesday. His testimony will help jurors decide on a $27 million civil lawsuit his family has brought against the city, the Department of Education and the teacher in question.
Yanes, then 16, was in his Beacon High School science class in Manhattan on Jan. 2, 2014, when his then teacher, Anne Poole, “poured the methanol into a container, and then without any warning, there was a big whoosh sound — a giant fireball had erupted from the jug.”
“I saw flashes of blue and orange. I heard my classmates go, ‘Whoa!’ and scream,” Yanes said, according to the New York Post. “I reflexively put my arms out … to kind of shield myself from the flames that were shooting out toward me.”
The suit argues that Poole ignored safety standards when she attempted to conduct a "Rainbow Experiment," in which mineral salts are set on fire to create different colors. Yanes said after the explosion he realized he was on fire.
“I yelled out, ‘Hot! Hot!’ and I dropped to the floor, and I started to stop, drop and roll because that is what you are supposed to do,’’ he continued.
He said he was still on fire, however, and he could feel the fire eating away at his skin.
“I held my breath for as long as I could. But nothing was working. I was hopelessly burning alive, and I couldn’t put myself out, and the pain was so unbearable," Yanes testified.
Yanes claims he heard Poole saying, “I’m stupid, I’m so stupid,’” after the explosion.
Another teacher threw a fire blanket on Yanes and Poole sprayed a fire extinguisher, according to reports.
He suffered third-degree burns over his body after the accident and needed several skin grafts. Yanes’ mother, Yvonne Yanes, described how she tried to get him to wait awhile after the accident before looking in the mirror.
“I tried to prolong that for as long as I could because I don’t want him to see what I was seeing,” Yvonne said. “The face, the way that he looked … I didn’t think he could handle it.’’
Yvonne also described the fear of showing Alonzo to his 7-year-old sister because of the extent of his injuries.
“'Alonzo does not look the same anymore. He will probably look very scary to you. He will probably look like a monster, like Frankenstein,’” the mom said she told her daughter at the time. “'He has been patched up a lot. He has staples in him. So he is going to look very different.’"
She added the entire ordeal was like a "horror movie."
"It’s hard coming up with encouragements," Yvonne said. “The future is grim for him.”
A lawyer for the defense argued in court that what happened was an accident no one could have prepared for.