UH researcher who lost arm in lab explosion sues

UH researcher who lost arm in lab explosion sues

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A post-doctoral researcher has filed a civil lawsuit against the University of Hawaii for an explosion that resulted in the loss of her arm.

The lab explosion happened March 16, as Thea Ekins-Coward was conducting an experiment that mixed compressed hydrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Ekins-Coward, who worked for the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, lost her right lower arm and elbow in the incident and suffered corneal abrasions, facial burns and partial hearing loss, according to a civil complaint.

In addition to UH, the lawsuit names Jian Yu, the principal investigator of the lab where Ekins-Coward worked, and Richard Rocheleau, director of the institute.

The complaint accuses the defendants of "providing unsafe and improper equipment, by failing to provide adequate training, by failing to follow safety codes, standards and regulations in laboratory safety, by directing Thea Ekins-Coward to undertake experiments that were inherently and unnecessarily unsafe, by failing to make reasonable inspection of the equipment, and by failing to warn of any inadequacy of the equipment or the possible dangerous condition."

In response, UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said, "The university has not been served. This is pending litigation and we can offer no further comment."

UH-Manoa was issued a safety citation in September with 15 violations, but all fines have been paid, Meisenzahl said.

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