A former Capri Elementary School student and his family are suing the Encinitas Union School District for negligence after allegedly suffering burns on his face, eyes and neck from a science experiment gone wrong.
Priest Rivera, who was a sixth grader during the alleged accident last June, was outside with his classmates and their teacher, Lori Feinberg, according to a lawsuit filed Dec. 30 in San Diego County Superior Court. They were performing a “black snake” experiment in which baking soda, sugar, sand and alcohol are mixed together and ignited, which causes a “carbon snake” to rise from the mixture.
The lawsuit alleges that Feinberg lit the mixture with a lighter, but the snake did not rise. She added more alcohol, and there was “a loud pop and an explosion,” then a “flame jet burst from the mixture, engulfing ... Priest in flames.” He spent a week in UC San Diego’s burn unit.
“Priest’s injuries were foreseeable,” stated the lawsuit, which also alleges students were not wearing safety goggles or any other protective gear. “Any school district and teacher conducting the black snake experiment for young children should have taken steps to ensure the students’ safety.”
The lawsuit asks for a jury trial, and seeks a to-be-determined amount in damages. Dave Fox, an attorney representing Priest, said Priest will need suture treatment and plastic surgery as part of a costly recovery.
“We hope that through this process, we can do everything we can to make sure Priest gets reimbursed,” Fox added.
Encinitas Union School District Superintendent Andree Grey said the district is declining comment due to the pending litigation.