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Denver teacher fired for injury-inducing experiment criminally charged

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Students at Strive Academy in Denver were evacuated on Sept. 15, 2014, after a science demonstration bursts into a 15-foot wall of fire.

DENVER — A Denver teacher fired after a science experiment went horribly wrong now faces criminal charges.

On Wednesday, Daniel Powell, 22, was officially charged with four counts of third-degree assault, a class 1 misdemeanor, the Denver District Attorney’s Office confirmed, stemming from a Sept. 15 science experiment at Strive Academy that injured four students.

Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Powell, who has since been fired by Strive Academy, is accused of pouring methanol on a small fire in a classroom, which the Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey called “negligent.”

That assertion was backed up the U.S. Chemical Safety Board a day after the September incident.

“The chemistry teacher was not aware of the dangers of methanol and was not trained in the danger of ethanol,” safety board spokesperson Mark Wingard said.

Wingard continued to suggest the methanol demonstration attempted by Powell has little to no educational value, adding that schools like Strive Academy should not be conducting experiments with these kinds of flammables.

Investigators said Powell’s demonstration sparked a 15-foot wall of fire, causing a school evacuation and sending four students to the hospital.

Dominic Vargas was the most seriously injured. The 16-year-old student had still not fully recovered from injuries to his upper body over a month after the incident occurred.

Powell’s first court appearance was scheduled for Nov. 18.