Emergency Response Team

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Two investigations underway into University of Hawaii lab explosion

The University of California (UC) Center for Laboratory Safety  has been retained to carry out “an independent investigation to determine the cause of the explosion” in a Hawaii Natural Energy Institute biofuels research laboratory at the University of Hawaii (UH), Manoa, on 16 March, the university's chancellor, Robert Bley-Vroman, announced in a 4 April statement. The explosion severely injured a postdoc, who has now been released from the hospital, according to Bley-Vroman.

Investigators from the UC center were on the Manoa campus during the week of 28 March and anticipate completing their investigation by the end of April, he continued. The UC center was established in 2011, 2 years after the death of research assistant Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji from burns sustained while working in the lab of UC Los Angeles professor Patrick Harran.

The Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health division (HIOSH) is also investigating the incident, notes UH spokesman Daniel Meisenzahl in an email to Science Careers. “Any serious injuries in a place of business would be investigated by HIOSH,” Meisenzahl writes. “I can confirm their investigators have been/will continue to be on campus.” 

“All preliminary indications are that the accident was an isolated incident and not the result of a systemic problem … or intentional wrongdoing,” Bley-Vroman’s statement adds.

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