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Propane explosion injures two Box Elder students


A high school student remains hospitalized after a propane tank exploded inside the art building at the Box Elder School.

A witness said today the tank exploded while students were using propane to create blown-glass art.

A state fire marshal is investigating the incident. Marshal Terry Phillips was in Box Elder this morning meeting with school officials, his office said.

About 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Chippewa Cree law enforcement officers and Box Elder volunteer firefighters were dispatched to the building.

Hill County sheriff's deputies were called at 4:15 p.m. to perform an accident investigation. Sheriff Greg Szudera was unavailable for comment today.

At least two students were injured by the explosion. Bryson Meyers, 16, was treated and released from Northern Montana Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Kathie Newell.

Cassidy Pullin was flown to the Intermountain Burn Center at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. Hospital officials confirmed Pullin had been admitted, but did not release her condition.

A hospital spokesman said Pullin's family was en route to Salt Lake City, and that the hospital could not release further information without their permission.

The school was closed Thursday after the explosion, and classes resumed this morning.

The brick art building is separate from the main building that houses the elementary and high schools.

Box Elder Schools administrators declined to comment about the incident today. Box Elder High School Principal Wes Fehr referred any questions to Superintendent Robert Heppner.

Fehr said Heppner was traveling to Box Elder from Carter and was expected to arrive this afternoon.

The scene at Box Elder School after the explosion was one of shock and quiet contemplation, a witness said.

Deb LaTray of Havre, who arrived at the school shortly after the explosion, said she was amazed at how calm everyone seemed.

"An ambulance was leaving just as I got there," she said. "Everyone was in shock. Kids and teachers were standing around and leaving the school. I could not believe how unchaotic it was."

LaTray said she was told by students and staff that a 20-pound propane tank exploded while students were using it to produce glass-blown art.

Two former Box Elder students said today they witnessed the scene shortly after the explosion.

"We saw an ambulance flying up the street, so we stopped two girls we used to go to school with," said Larae Ameline, 20.

"The fire crew was waiting for the Mercy Flight," said ReAnna Bear, 18. "They said (one of the victim's) lungs were blistered over."

The two women said they knew both of the students injured in the blast.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.


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