DICKINSON, N.D.—Students at Dickinson State University were back to an unceremonious Wednesday, 24 hours after Murphy Hall was evacuated and a faculty member was injured in a classroom explosion Tuesday afternoon.
Chemistry professor Ken Pierce was preparing a classroom demonstration around 3:30 p.m. when an incident occurred resulting in a small explosion.
No students were injured but three students were evaluated and released by paramedics on scene after experiencing ringing in their ears from the sound of the explosion.
Pierce was initially transported to CHI St. Alexius Health in Dickinson before being transferred to Bismarck for treatment for injuries sustained.
His injuries are not life-threatening and Marie Moe, executive director of communications and public affairs, said Pierce was reportedly in good spirits when he spoke to members of the campus community Wednesday morning.
Murphy Hall was open for classes Wednesday except for rooms 206 and 210, which underwent cleaning by Wenck Emergency Response.
The response team arrived about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday to begin cleaning up the classroom.
Jack Schulz, DSU’s director of security and emergency management, said the classroom showed visible signs of an explosion with parts of the counter being damaged, and blood and debris around the room.
Sandra Atafo said she heard the explosion from her classroom across the hallway.
“I just heard this sound of an explosion,” Atafo recalled. “It was really loud.”
She said her class was assured it was nothing to be concerned about and resumed class before being told they needed to leave the building.
“I just saw blood and I saw that it was actually worse than we thought,” she said.
Liz Pavlicek was on the first floor during the incident but said she could still feel the explosion from a floor below.
“The room shook,” she said. “My friend actually started packing up our things because we thought somebody had set off a bomb.”
“I was so scared,” Atafo added.
Schulz said the second floor of the building was evacuated within minutes and someone aided in helping Pierce with his injuries and giving first aid until paramedics arrived on scene.
“There was a young lady that had some type of medical training either in the room or in the area, and she provided a little bit of first aid on him (Pierce),” Schulz said.
The professor’s hands were bandaged before he was taken by ambulance.
Schulz said the head of the chemistry department notified him immediately that there was no dangerous airborne chemicals to be concerned about in the lab and there was no fire from the explosion. Schulz said knowing that there was no immediate danger, it was about making sure students didn’t panic, and said the evacuation was calm and orderly.
Schulz said he was surprised with the demeanor of the students and staff while being evacuated and though there was obvious shock, everyone kept a calm and level head.
While only one person sustained injuries in the accident, Mitzel said that he is in everyone’s thoughts.
“Dr. Ken Pierce is a beloved teacher and member of the DSU family. His injuries are not life-threatening, for which we are all grateful,” Mitzel said. “As a community and family, all of our thoughts are with Ken as he begins to heal from this accident. Ken will have all the support we can give to him, and all the positive energy we can send to him.”
Badlands Human Service Center will provide counseling to campus community members who wish to talk about Tuesday’s events. Faculty, staff and students can walk in or call for an appointment.