Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chemical safety updates: Daniel Powell charges dropped, David Snyder ordered to pay restitution

From C&EN's Jyllian Kemsley, a couple of items of interest. First, the story of Daniel Powell, the Colorado teacher charged with assault after injuring a student during a methanol/flame demonstration. The charges have been dropped: 
Last fall, a Denver teacher, Daniel Powell, was charged with four counts of misdemeanor assault after a classroom fire seriously burned a student. Powell had lit a small pool of methanol to demonstrate its flame properties, then tried to add more methanol from a 4 L container, Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board investigators said in September. The fire flashed back into the container, then jetted out to hit the student in the chest. Other students sitting nearby were also injured. 
The charges against Powell have been dropped, says Lynn Kimbrough, communications director for the Denver District Attorney‘s Office. “As the case moved forward, further review of the facts led the prosecutor to the conclusion that we did not a reasonable likelihood of conviction – and once that conclusion was reached we had an ethical obligation to dismiss the case,” Kimbrough says...
If the CSB account is indeed accurate, then this at least the fourth incident (the Calais Weber case, the Alonzo Yanes case (pdf), the Reno case) where it was the decision of the demonstrator to:
  • add methanol 
  • from a larger container 
  • to an already lit flame
that caused the injuries. Not especially surprising, but still worth noting. 

It is interesting to see that the charges were dropped - I wonder why? 

Also from Jyllian Kemsley, the David Snyder case (where a Ph.D. synthetic chemist was synthesizing explosives in his apartment and then injured himself) has concluded with restitution payments to the apartment owners: 
Former University of California, Davis, chemist David S. Snyder must pay nearly $100,000 in restitution to the university and a property management company as a result of a 2013 incident in his campus apartment. 
The restitution deal concludes legal proceedings against Snyder that involved 17 felony charges, including possession of explosives and firearms and reckless disposal of hazardous waste. He pleaded no contest to the charges last year and was sentenced to two years and two months in county jail plus two years and two months out of jail under supervision by the county probation department....
I still don't know what he was doing. Not buying his lawyer's story about removing nitrates from water. 


  1. Hey,

    What do you think about this particular channel on YouTube? FYI- It is about organic synthesis in "non-academic" and "non-industrial" settings. The guy appears to have a pretty good comprehension of what he is doing. Most of his clips show and explain undergraduate level synthesis rather well, infact much better than the audio-visual material commonly used in undergraduate organic chemistry courses.

    Here is one of his clips describing the synthesis of Mercury Fulminate.