State Fire Marshal Completes Maple Grove Junior High Science Class Fire Investigation

Deputy State Fire Marshal states in a report: “...it is my conclusion that the cause of this incident is negligence.” No charges were filed as a result of the accident.

More than six months after a at Maple Grove Junior High sent several students to the hospital, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office has concluded its investigation into the accident.

Four students in a ninth-grade science class at sustained burns as a result of an accident involving a flammable gas Dec. 1, according to Barbara Olson, Osseo School District director of school/community relations in a Maple Grove Junior High Science teacher Matthew Achor as of May 22.

The investigation into the incident was referred to the Minnesota State Fire Marshal by the Maple Grove Fire Department almost immediately after the Dec. 1, 2011 fire was reported.  

Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s office recently released its final report, concluded May 17, 2012. In the conclusion of his Dec. 13, 2011 supplemental report, Investigator Ronald Rahman stated: “Due to the scene examination, interviews of students, the interview of Achor and the above summarization, it is my conclusion that the cause of this incident is negligence.”

The final supplemental report filed by Rahman May 17, 2012 indicated the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and Maple Grove City Attorney would not be presenting charges in the case and the case was marked as closed.

“We are happy with the charging decision by both the Hennepin County Attorney and Maple Grove City Attorney,” Achor’s attorney Gretchen Gurstell said in a phone interview with Patch. “Mr. Achor regrets terribly that anyone was hurt in the accident, but is pleased with the outcome with the Hennepin County Attorney and Maple Grove City Attorney and he looks forward to teaching again.”

In a Dec. 12, 2011 initial synopsis, Rahman indicated five students were actually injured in the incident.

In the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s investigative report dated Dec. 13, 2011 , Rahman outlined a “summary of facts, statements and observations” of the case. In his conclusion, Rahman wrote:

“The area of fire origin is just north of midpoint on the east demonstration table where instructor Matthew Achor lit the methanol vapors inside the blue plastic five gallon jug for demonstration purposes.

It appears the demonstrations conducted were a result of Achor rewarding the students for doing a good job in class thus far during the school year instead of the students taking a final examination. It was confirmed that the demonstrations are not referenced in the student textbooks, nor were the students instructed to study for the experiments conducted.

It also appears that safety factors regarding students’ safe distances from the demonstrations and safety goggles or clothing worn by the students or the instructor were not utilized, and the position of the plastic splash guard is also in question, as there is no protected area on the table top where Achor alleges he placed it.”

According to Barbara Olson, Osseo School District director of school/community relations, the district’s internal investigation into the incident “is still under way.”

To read more about how the accident impacted the district's science classrooms:

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