Several students have been taken to hospital with burns following an explosion during an outdoor science experiment known as the “Black Snake” at a school on Sydney’s northern beaches.
NSW Ambulance said paramedics, including road crews and a specialist medical team aboard a CareFlight helicopter, were called to Manly West Public School around 1pm on Monday.
Watch the video above: 11 children suffered burns as a result of an explosion.
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Eleven fifth-grade students and an adult were treated at the scene for burns before being transferred to different hospitals in stable condition.
A young girl, who was the most seriously ill, was taken to hospital with multiple burns across her body, a spokesperson for CareFlight said.
It is understood that the students were participating in a joint science experiment known as the “Black Snake”.
The experiment involves lighting a pile of baking soda and sugar to create a chemical reaction that looks like a snake emerging from the sand.
However, given the weather conditions on Monday with strong winds of 85km/h across Sydney, it was a recipe for disaster.
Reportedly, the wind picked up the chemicals and blew them around, burning members of the class.
Police added that Northern Beaches Police officers were called to the school on Griffith Street to report a “serious incident”.
The Minister of Education responds
The Minister for Education and Early Learning, Sarah Mitchell, told Sunrise she had offered her support to the school community.
“Today, we are thinking of the injured students and wishing them a speedy recovery, and we will be making sure to provide support at the school, including additional counseling for everyone there,” she said on Tuesday.
“It was just so extraordinary what happened yesterday, and the circumstances were so upsetting, so it goes entirely to the school team, and they do an amazing job supporting the children.”
Mitchell added that the department has “rigorous procedures” in place for managing these experiences at the school.
“We want children to learn about science and be curious about what they learn… We’ll see what the investigation reveals about what happened yesterday,” she said.
“If there are things that we need to learn or apply in our schools, we will, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.
“We need to focus on the welfare of children today and the investigations will inform anything else we may need to do in this area.”
Watch the video below: Dr. Carl explains a science experiment in the middle of the Sydney School Incident.
Science expert Dr. Carl told Sunrise that the experiment involves “common household chemicals” and creates a “very impressive” reaction.
“What’s supposed to happen is that out of this mixture comes this black snake the size of your arm, and it grows and grows and can be very long,” he said.
Carl explained that while they don’t know for sure what went wrong, he believes the explosion was “almost certainly” caused by a gust of wind.
He said, “If you have some methyl spirits burning, and methyl spirits need oxygen, so if you have five times more air and five times more oxygen, a little flame suddenly ignites.”
“Doing this outside on the grass, you’d think it was safe, but having this gust of wind break out methos and flames, that’s totally unexpected and I think the teacher is sad.
“The teacher was doing it to be nice to the students and give them something extra.”
Acting Superintendent Phil Templeman confirmed Monday that what happened was a mistake in an outdoor science experiment.
“Today’s high winds affected the experiment and blew some material around,” Templeman said.
The children suffered burns to the upper body, chest, face, and legs. Fortunately, the majority of the students were not badly injured.”
Two children sustained serious burns, while the other nine children and the adult sustained superficial burns.
Templeman said it was a “tremendous response” by the emergency services, who arrived within minutes.
“I would also like to commend the staff at the school, who managed this incident very well, providing immediate support to emergency crews and ensuring that injured patients were taken to an area where we could treat them,” he said.
The Department of Education, New South Wales Police and SafeWork NSW are investigating the incident.