18 Triaged, Transported After School Hazmat Situation

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. - A hazmat situation injured multiple people at Merrol Hyde Magnet High School in Hendersonville.

An official said at least 17 students and one teacher were triaged at the scene Wednesday morning, and multiple patients were taken to area hospitals.

Six students were treated at Tristar Hendersonville Medical Center, while five students were taken to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Senior Recalls High School Science Experiment Accident

The teacher was reportedly treated and released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Reports from school officials said the educator involved was a first-year chemistry teacher.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, nine were still hospitalized; however, none were expected to stay overnight.

The situation was described as an incident in a science class, and authorities said multiple times it was an accident.

The school was evacuated, and students were relocated following the incident.

The injuries were described as chemical burns. Dr. Berchaun Nicholls, of Tristar Hendersonville Medical Center, said the six students they treated had minor burns and inhalation injuries.

The doctor confirmed the burns were superficial, getting the first layer of the skin, and even though it's painful, it's generally not life-threatening on a small surface area. Officials described them Wednesday afternoon as second-degree burns.

“We came in and set up the decontamination tents and had them wash off and brought them into a room where they could be treated for their burns and also breathing treatments if they had any shortness of breath," Dr. Nicholls said.

According to Dr. Nicholls, boric acid was allegedly mixed with ethyl alcohol, which produces a small green flame. Details on how the experiment possibly went wrong had not been released, and authorities had not confirmed the chemicals involved.

Officials said teachers put the fire out with an extinguisher.

None of the injuries were to the eyes. Most were seen on the arms and extremities, according to the doctor. Authorities said some were on the face.

The doctor added they were prepared for this type of incident.

"We practice this several times a year," Dr. Nicholls said. "The best part about it is the community can know that we're trained for this, they're safe, and we're honored to treat them."

The building is split between a middle school/high school and an elementary school. School was dismissed as a precaution at 10:15 a.m. for the middle and high schools. Elementary students were also released. A command center was set up near campus for parents to pick up their children. School officials said they plan for classes to resume as normal on Thursday.

Authorities said they have been airing out the school to make sure no further incidents take place. Fans were brought in to help with the process.

The fire department will investigate inside the building and will be responsible for giving the all clear at the scene.

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