Ottawa School Explosion Kills Student

First Posted: 05/26/11 12:40 PM ET Updated: 07/26/11 06:12 AM ET

Mother Theresa High

(CP) -- An 18-year-old student who was critically injured in an explosion at a suburban Ottawa high school has died, police said late Thursday.

About a dozen students and a teacher were apparently building barbecues in the auto shop when vapours from an empty 55-gallon oil drum ignited and blew up, Const. Marc Soucy, spokesman for Ottawa police, said earlier Thursday.

He said he heard the drum contained peppermint oil, but that is still under investigation.

The Grade 12 student wasn’t breathing and had no pulse when emergency workers arrived, but paramedics were able to resuscitate him by the time they reached hospital.

Ottawa police did not identify the student but news reports said he was Eric Leighton.

The mid-morning blast rattled desks throughout Mother Teresa Catholic High School and sent six people in total to hospital.

The five others, including a 33-year-old male teacher, had minor injuries but were sent to hospital as a precaution because of the concussive effects of the blast.

"I think there was a bit of a force," said Joe Micucci, commander of operations for the Ottawa Paramedic Service. "Whenever there is an explosion, it may have thrown them back a bit, but I don’t have that information."

Chris Ventura, 14, said a loud boom shook desks in his Grade 9 science class in a different part of the school and students were rushed outside and sent down the street to another high school nearby.

"We didn’t really know what it was," Ventura said. "We thought maybe someone was moving desks or something, we didn’t really know."

The high school has 1,480 students and 130 staff. It sits in the leafy, bedroom suburb of Barrhaven in the city’s south-west end.

The brown brick school was cordoned off with yellow police tape as the police arson squad and the fire marshal investigated the incident. Soucy said the involvement of the arson squad doesn’t imply foul play.

"Any time there’s explosives involved or fire involved, it’s the arson squad that investigates."

He praised the way the school handled the emergency: "All schools practice lockdown and evacuation. The school knew what they had to do and they did it very well."

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Filed by Christian Cotroneo  |