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Student awarded $60M after botched science experiment left him burned speaks with Inside Edition

A man left severely burned when his teacher botched an experiment in his high school chemistry class is speaking out for the first time since a court awarded him almost $60million in damages. 

Alonzo Yanes, now 21, sustained third-degree burns to 30 percent of his body in 2014 when he was engulfed in a fireball during a ‘Rainbow Experiment’ at his prestigious New York prep school. 

Yanes was awarded $ 59.17 million by a Manhattan jury back in July after suing the Department of Education and his Beacon High School teacher Anna Poole – however he insists he was never motivated by money. 

Speaking exclusively with Inside Edition on Thursday, Yanes appeared alongside his lawyer Ben Rubinowitz who declared that the case was always about making classrooms safer for all students. 

‘If a teacher is going to undertake a demonstration like this, you’ve got to use precautions, you’ve got to take safety measures,’ Runbinowitz stated after it was revealed in court that Yanes’ classroom lacked a fire blanket, shower and eyewash. 

Speaking exclusively with Inside Edition on Thursday, Yanes appeared alongside his lawyer Ben Rubinowitz who declared that the case was always about making classrooms safer for all students

Yanes did not disclose to Inside Edition just how he will spend his millions – although the Department of Education has launched an appeal to lower the amount he will receive. 

However, Yanes did reveal how he he felt in the moments after the Rainbow Experiment exploded. 

The chemistry demonstration was supposed to show how different salts create different colored flames – with Poole pouring a highly flammable substance from a container into a bowl of nitrate in the seconds before the explosion. 

‘I remember feeling this immense heat completely come forward and wrap around my entire body,’ Yanes – who was sitting just three feet from the experiment – told Inside Edition. 

‘I remember these flashes of blue and orange just flying toward my face. I remember feeling this burning sensation around my head.’

An depiction of the botched chemistry class experiment, which saw Yanes become engulfed in a massive fireball

An depiction of the botched chemistry class experiment, which saw Yanes become engulfed in a massive fireball 

The classroom inside Beacon High School in Manhattan is pictured in the aftermath of the botched experiment

The classroom inside Beacon High School in Manhattan is pictured in the aftermath of the botched experiment 

Yanes is pictured before the incident

Yanes is pictured in court earlier this year

Yanes was 16 at the time of the accident. He is pictured at left before the incident, and at right during his court case 

Yanes spent five months in hospital after the accident, and told the program of the pain he felt when he looked in the mirror for the first time after sustaining the burns. 

‘As funny as it sounds, I kinda looked like something out of a horror movie,’ he stated. 

It’s not the first time Yanes has spoken about the hardships he’s faced since that fateful day five years ago. 

In court back in June, Yanes took the stand and stated: ‘The way that I look, it gets in the way too much. I don’t think the scars are very attractive,’ the 21-year-old told the courtroom.   

Yanes told the program of the pain he felt when he looked in the mirror for the first time after he sustained the burns

Yanes told the program of the pain he felt when he looked in the mirror for the first time after he sustained the burns

Yanes spent five months in hospital after the accident (pictured)

Yanes spent five months in hospital after the accident (pictured)

On the stand, Yanes also revealed that he has never got used to people ‘gawking’ at him in the five years since the accident. 

‘I will never get used to that. It still hurts tremendously,’ he stated. 

The former student further stated that he often takes off his glasses so that he can not see people staring at him.  

‘The world wasn’t very accepting of the way that I physically looked,’ he said. 

Yanes then painfully told the court: ‘Not a single day passes by when I don’t think about my injuries or what my life would have been if I wasn’t involved in that injury.’ 

Images of the horrific injuries sustained by Yanes were shown to the court in the trial. 

Images of the injuries sustained by Yanes were shown to jurors during the civil suit

Images of the injuries sustained by Yanes were shown to jurors during the civil suit 

Alonzo Yanes was left severely burned after a botched experiment in a 2014 chemistry class at Manhattan's Beacon High School

Alonzo Yanes was left severely burned after a botched experiment in a 2014 chemistry class at Manhattan’s Beacon High School 

His mom, Yvonne, also told jurors how she was forced to warn her daughter that her brother’s appearance had changed after he suffered third degree burns when he was hit by the flames.  

A tearful Yvonne, 51, said she told Yanes’ younger sister Alana, who was seven at the time of the incident,that her brother ‘did not look the same anymore’.

She recalled she said: ‘He will probably look very scary to you. He will probably look like a monster, like Frankenstein.

Meanwhile, an expert also  testified during the case that chemistry teacher Poole ignored safety protocols. 

Samuella Sigmann, a professor at Appalachian State University, said that the ‘Rainbow Experiment’ should never have been conducted. 

She said the lack of a fume hood – a ventilated enclosure in a chemistry laboratory, in which harmful volatile chemicals can be used or kept – amounted to ‘willful negligence.’

Samuella Sigmann

Anna Poole

The ‘Rainbow Experiment’ that Anna Poole was conducting when Alonzo Yanes was set on fire, leaving him with third degree burns across 30 percent of his body ‘should never have been done’ said Samuella Sigmann, a professor at Appalachian State University

‘Because they did not have the proper equipment to do it. There was a clear and present hazard and they ignored it. The risk was very high,’ Sigmann added, the NYP reported.

Listing a catalogue of failures, Sigmann said that the classroom lacked a fire blanket, shower or eyewash, while Poole herself admitted in the deposition that she had never used a fire extinguisher before.

The court heard that although Poole was wearing goggles, her students were not. 

And the teenagers – who should have been at least 8 feet away away from the demonstration table, were also sitting too close, with Yanes, just two to three feet away, the expert added. 

Poole is still employed by the Department of Education, but now works in a non-teaching role.  

The court heard that although Poole was wearing goggles, her students were not. She is pictured at right on Friday

The court heard that although Poole was wearing goggles, her students were not. She is pictured at right on Friday

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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