Mr. Carl McDaniel and the Explosion
In the fall of 1963 Bountiful High School was trying out a new program in Chemistry. The school had built a fancy new classroom/laboratory for us in the northwest corner of the building. The idea was to mix teaching and experimental work together. The “ChemEd” program even prescribed what chemicals we were to have in our storeroom to support all the experiments we were to conduct. Mr. Carl McDaniel, the Chemistry teacher, was very enthusiastic about all this. He even hired me to be his assistant to help with the lab.
One day we received an urgent letter from “ChemEd” telling us that one of the chemicals they had told us to buy for our storeroom was potentially very unstable and dangerous (kind of like some of our BHS classmates). They spelled out in detail how to dispose of the chemical safely. Mr. McDaniel had me help him take the one pound cardboard carboy of the organic peroxide out into the small field west of the seminary building. We brought a shovel, a rolled up piece of paper for a wick and matches to light the stuff on fire. Following the directions, I dug a shallow hole, put the container in it, used the shovel to break open the carboy containing the fine, white crystalline substance and then stuck in the wick. As I stood holding the shovel, Mr. McDaniel knelt down over the hole and lit the match. Before he could light the paper, the flame from the match evidently ignited the cloud of powdery crystals prematurely and the whole container exploded in a blinding flash and with a loud “whoosh” that people said could be heard up on the football field. A white mushroom cloud rose above us.
I felt the heat from the explosion on my forehead but, Mr. McDaniel, just inches away from the hole, took the blast full force. As he turned to me, I was stunned to see his face blackened, his glasses melted, his hair singed off and his white shirt scorched. What should we do?! I remembered that the Bountiful Hospital was just half a block away. I grabbed his arm and he was able to walk with me down to the emergency room. I don’t know how he remained conscious during that walk. He was quite a sightattracting lots of stares from people on the street, other patients and the hospital staff. They quickly had him on a hospital bed and started cleaning his wounds. We found out later that he had a few small patches of third degree burns but most of his injuries were first and second degree. He was in the hospital for several days and then recuperated at home for a week. Mr. Keddington asked me to teach the Chemistry classes for several daysthat was rather fun but the students were all glad to have Mr. McDaniel back.