A Virginia high school senior said she was “traumatized” after a botched chemistry demonstration set several students and her teacher on fire.
Bethanne Piland, 19, was attending her second term chemistry class at Dinwiddie High School on Wednesday when her teacher conducted an experiment that went horribly wrong as students in the first and second rows were engulfed in flames within seconds.
“My friends were on fire and I was on fire,” Piland told DailyMail.com. “I froze and was just scared. I’m still playing it in my head.
‘I couldn’t see their faces, they lay face down on the floor. I thought oh, are they dead? Are they okay?’ Piland told WTVR.
William Massello, the physics teacher who experimented with methanol, had tried to fly a water bottle with a flame across the room.
When the trick failed, Masello added more gas to the bottle causing the explosion.
Immediately, Massello went to help the burning students while another student rushed to pull the fire alarm, Piland said.
“I was frozen in space and when I looked down I saw the fire in my pants,” Piland said. “I was the only one in there when the teacher put out the fire.”
Piland said the two boys next to her were two of the three students sent to the hospital. She was not injured in the incident.
“His hair was crispy,” she said, remembering what one of them looked like. “His skin was peeling and his lip was broken.”
Senior Bethanne Piland, 19, was in her chemistry class at Dinwiddie High School in Virigina when suddenly an experiment led to an explosion
Dinwiddie High School, in Virginia, sent students home after the explosion happened early Wednesday morning around 9 a.m.
William Massello, a physics teacher, conducted an experiment for students who used methanol to fly a water bottle with a flame across the room
Several rumors about how the explosion happened are being spread by students who weren’t in the chemistry classroom, but Piland is determined to share the truth.
“The teacher did nothing wrong,” Piland told DailyMail.com. “It’s not his fault.”
Piland also debunked claims that an altercation in the classroom led to the explosion after chemicals were spilled.
“People need to know what happened,” she said.
Medical professionals arrived on the scene and treated three students who had suffered burns, one of whom had to be taken to hospital, the Dinwiddie County Fire Department said.
Massello was also sent to hospital and another student was later treated for a minor burn.
After witnessing her friends on fire, Piland is traumatized and afraid to go back to the chemistry room.
“It’s not out of my head,” Piland said. “It won’t be the same again.”
The school has ensured that students from Massello’s chemistry class can learn in another classroom when they return in person on Friday.
Piland fears she will never recover from Wednesday’s horrific images, but insists she go back to school for the rest of her senior year.
Police said the circumstances leading to the explosion are being investigated as several students are in hospital
Parents waited outside the school to pick up their children as it was unknown what caused the explosion
The horrific explosion occurred on the second floor of the science building, with students in surrounding classrooms immediately evacuated.
An eyewitness said a student’s hair caught on her hair.
Meanwhile, other students said they smelled “burning” and “chemical fumes” after the blast.
The explosion came as a shock to many, as the 18-year-old high school teacher had been conducting the same experiment for years.
An earlier video from 2017 showed a student holding a water bottle filled with gas as it flung across the classroom as the flame ignited.
Piland said she keeps repeating the scene in her head and fears it won’t go away anytime soon
Footage taken in October 2017 shows a student holding a bottle filled with gas and a flame shooting out of the bottom before it shoots across the classroom
Medical professionals arrived on the scene and treated three students who had suffered burns, one of whom had to be transported by plane to hospital
The unexpected explosion happened in a room on the second floor of the building during a science class
Tammy Jean Moore-Edwards, whose cousin was in class at the time of the incident, previously told DailyMail.com that she initially learned about the explosion on an emergency scanner.
She said, “The school has done a great job in the way they handled everything, and when I heard it on the scanner, I was a nervous wreck.
“My cousin told me that the teacher, Mr. Massello, mixed a liquid in a bottle to make a rocket. My son told me he had done the same experiment the year before.
“But when it didn’t work, he added more, and it just exploded. He was the only one sitting at the desk, but the students sitting in front got the blast from the blast.
“Kids started running out of the classroom, screaming and panicking. There was smoke and the table and floor were on fire.
‘The students at the front were the ones who got covered in gas, which caused them to burn themselves.
“You don’t have to touch anything just because he was close enough it hit him and he was quite a distance, it just exploded everywhere.
“The sprinklers didn’t go off, which is pretty scary. Mr. Massello had burned something else in the sink that was also used to dispose of chemicals, but I don’t know why he did that.
“My cousin told me there was a boy holding his hands and his leg, she said he was burned on his trouser leg. Another boy in front had caught fire, but not for long.
“It’s like something you see in movies. It’s terrifying.’
Dinwiddie Fire Brigade said they are still investigating the events leading up to the explosion, and the status of those hospitalized is not available.
Dinwiddie school students learn online on Thursday and return in person on Friday.