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Scientist killed, second injured in lab explosion

September 3, 2011 |  7:30 am

One scientist was killed and another injured in an explosion Friday at a technology company in Menlo Park, authorities said.

The explosion happened in a laboratory at Membrane Technology Inc., when a male scientist was transferring a mixture of several gases, including methane, from one cylinder to another at about 4:15 p.m., said Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

The explosion caused a female scientist standing near an open door to be blown out of the laboratory, Schapelhouman said.

Other laboratory workers carried the mortally wounded man into the hallway before arriving firefighters went into the building to lead them outside. Twenty-three other workers were evacuated from the building.

Firefighters and paramedics performed CPR and other advanced life support on the injured man, who had slipped into cardiac arrest, but he died, Schapelhouman said.

The injured woman was taken to Stanford Hospital with eardrum damage, he added.

Schapelhouman said that late Friday night, fire inspectors were inside the cleared building, and would probe the cause of the explosion with investigators from Cal/OSHA.

He said that it was possible that the cylinder with the gases exploded because it had become over-pressurized. Schapelhouman said the company had passed a fire inspection in March.


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--Hector Becerra