Teacher sacked after lab blast
Teacher sacked after lab blast

A science teacher was sacked and two students face months of recovery after an explosion at a school in Bibra Lake during a science experiment left them with severe cuts and burns.

One student with severed tendons may need more operations to ensure he regains the full use of his hand.

Perth Waldorf School administrator Bruce Uchiyama-Lee said that late last term Year 12 students had added oxygen to a glass jar that had previously contained LNG, then set it alight, causing a powerful explosion.

He said two boys received lacerations and burns to the face and stomach and glass shards had severed the tendons in one student's hand.

Mr Uchiyama-Lee said an investigation by the school found that none of the six students in the class did anything wrong and they had followed instructions from teacher Geoffrey Vargas.

He said the school had consulted chemistry experts at the Australian National University and another WA independent school and laboratory technician support group Labnetwest to confirm that what happened in the class was not normal procedure.

"It was an experiment done badly and that staff member has been terminated," he said.

The student with severed tendons would have to wear a cast for nearly four months that would hinder his Year 12 studies and his sporting aspirations.

"Because he was a State sailing champion, hoping to get qualified leading up to the Olympics, it's been a real setback for him," Mr Uchiyama-Lee said.

Mr Vargas, who moved his family of five from Europe to Perth to take up the job at the start of this year, said he accepted he made a mistake but believed he had been unfairly blamed for the accident.

He said he had told the school the science lab needed an overhaul because it contained unsafe equipment such as cracked Bunsen burner hoses and flammable or corrosive substances that should have been locked away.

"The whole lab was so dangerous that something was bound to happen eventually," he said.

"It was very unfortunate it happened in my class."

Mr Vargas said he had taught science in high schools for about six years but because he had now been "blacklisted" it would be impossible to work as a science teacher in WA, so he would have to leave the country at great personal expense.

Adding to his hardship, his five-year-old daughter is receiving chemotherapy for leukaemia.

Mr Uchiyama-Lee said the school labs were well maintained.

He had outlined details of the accident in the school newsletter so that parents could be confident that such incidents would not be hidden and that the teacher involved had been treated fairly.

The West Australian

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