Two boys remain hospitalized for burns after camp accident

Two days after an experiment went awry at a Covington science camp, two young boys with severe burns remained hospitalized and in critical condition.

A 9-year-old boy was at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and listed in critical condition, while a 10-year-old boy was listed in critical, but improving, condition at Baton Rouge General Hospital, state Fire Marshal Butch Browning said Wednesday. The boys have second-degree burns to their upper torsos and their faces, and both were transported from St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington to receive more-specialized treatment.

The Shreveport and Baton Rouge hospitals both have burn units.

The accident occurred Monday morning during the second session of St. Scholastica Academy’s sixth annual “Myth Busters Science Camp,” when a fire broke out during an experiment, Covington Fire Chief Richard Badon said Monday. He said the experiment involved converting sugar to carbon, which is done by heating the sugar inside of aluminum foil with alcohol.

On Wednesday, however, St. Scholastica spokeswoman Elaine Simmons said, “This did not have anything to do with chemicals.” She would not go into further details of the accident, except to say the school has been in contact with the families of the injured boys, and “naturally the boys are in our prayers; that’s our main thing. We just are praying for them and hope everything is OK; we’re very concerned about both the boys.”

A teacher and another camper also received minor injuries. The teacher, whose name has not been made public, took himself to the hospital and was released, while the camper was picked up by his parents, Badon said.

The camp is a weeklong event that “involves activities in chemistry, physics, biology, computers and more,” at a cost of $140 per camper, according the brochure offered on the school’s website. Campers could choose one of two sessions, one of which began June 10 and ended last Friday, or the second, which opened Monday and ends Friday.

Simmons said school officials “made a decision not do anything with chemicals or flames” for the remainder of camp.

Before camp began, the school touted fire and explosions as one of its selling points. In a four-minute segment that aired on WLAE-TV’s “Our Schools, Our Future,” which is hosted by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and was posted on SSA’s YouTube website, some previous campers said their favorite parts of camp were “when we explode stuff” and “lighting stuff on fire.”

Such a theme “concerns” Browning a bit, although he was quick to say the investigation of Monday’s accident is far from done. Investigators need to speak to the injured boys, and “we need to be respectful of the families and don’t see a reason to try to talk to them while they are hospitalized,” he said.

“It concerns me anytime people are experimenting with fire,” he said. “When you look at the types of experiments that include fire, you can see what happened here: a terrible tragedy. Now while there’s no law against doing these types of experiments, there certainly are responsibilities of safety that need to be adhered to.

“I think I will reserve my judgment on this case until we get all the facts, but it’s certainly a concern to me anytime someone uses chemicals and fire.”