911 calls reveal rush to help victim of UH lab explosion - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

911 calls reveal rush to help victim of UH lab explosion

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Witnesses to a University of Hawaii lab explosion in which a researcher lost her arm remained calm as they sought to get the woman help, newly-released 911 recordings show.

The first 911 call for the explosion, which happened March 16, came in at 5:48 p.m. Here is an excerpt:

Caller 1: "I'm in the basement."

911 operator: "You're in the basement?"

Caller 1: "Yes" 

911 operator: "OK and what happened? You heard an explosion?"

Caller 1: "I heard an explosion and then, uh, and there's a lot of debris and somebody's really injured. I think her arm is gone."

911: "Oh, okay."

Caller: "It's, uh, a pretty big emergency."

Researcher Thea Ekins-Coward, 29, was working in the basement lab alone when the explosion happens. The blast could be felt by people all over the building.

In the recording, Caller 1 tells paramedics that there isn't any fire, "but I do see compressed gas and there's a lot of damage to the building. There's no fire. I don't see any fire right now, but we do need medical support as soon as possible."

Shortly after the first 911 call, others followed:

911 operator: "Fire department can I get the address of your emergency?"

Caller 2: "Uh, we have an explosion and one of the lady's arms was just blown off. It's broken apart and she's locked in the building.

The explosion was deemed an accident in a preliminary report. Investigators said a spark from a pressure gauge ignited a tank of compressed gases that Coward was working with. She spent weeks recovering in the hospital.  

A final report is expected from a contracted lab safety firm at the end of this month.

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