By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A Box Elder student burned in a propane fire on Thursday is expected to return home in a week or two from a Salt Lake City burn unit, the Box Elder Schools superintendent said today.
Cassidy Pullin, 18, was airlifted to the Intermountain Burn Center at the University of Utah Hospital after a propane flash ignited during a blown-glass art project in the school's Art-Tech Building. In addition to Pullin, two students and two instructors were injured, according to a press release from Superintendent Robert Heppner. Pullin was the only victim who remains hospitalized.
"Apparently she's in stable condition," Heppner said this morning, adding that Pullin will probably not need skin grafts. "They hope she'll be back home in a week or two."
Heppner said he spoke with Pullin's family members on Sunday night, and that they expected her condition to be upgraded from critical today.
Heppner said one student, Dane Haley, was admitted with burns around his neck and was released from Northern Montana Hospital on Saturday. The other student, Bryson Meyers, and the two instructors, Tom Marinkovich and Pete Azure, were released from the hospital on Thursday.
Heppner said the school carried out its final investigation on Saturday.
State fire marshal Terry Phillips said the investigation was being taken over by the Hill County Sheriff's Department. Phillips said the department was still interviewing witnesses who were not available on Thursday.
Sheriff Greg Szudera said the people involved in the incident were being interviewed but would not discuss any details.
"It's still being investigated," he said today.
Phillips said investigators were not yet certain of the cause of the incident.
"At this time we're still looking at what the cause was," he said this morning.
But Phillips said reports that a 20-pound propane tank had exploded were not true.
"There wouldn't have been any classroom left," he said.
Heppner said the blast was a "propane flash" caused by a faulty safety valve on the tank at the workstation where students were making glass beads.
"The valve has been in there for at least seven years and there's never been a problem," Heppner said.
He said the staff was "very careful" and that the valve had been checked both by the instructor and an aide.
The press release from the superintendent's office said there was no structural damage to the building from the incident, and that "The building has been inspected and deemed safe for use."
On Friday, the school staff was "debriefed" and given an update on the injured people, Heppner's press release said.
Students attended a morning assembly. Students were given an opportunity to meet wtih counselor about the incident, Heppner said.
Two extra counselors are still on call at the school today to talk to troubled students, but things in general are "very much back to normal," he said.
"Everyone is pulling together and things seem to be going quite well," Heppner added.
Heppner said he doubts the art program will be affected by the incident, and that he does not expect a lawsuit.
But Phillips said some changes to the art program's procedures would probably be necessary.
"There'll definitely be some changes in the way they conduct what they were doing," he said. "There are going to be changes to make it code compliant."
Heppner said this is the first year the school has had medical insurance for all kids, and that a fund has been started to help the families and students injured in the blast pay for miscellaneous expenses like food, lodging and travel incurred in the incident.