North County boy severely burned by school experiment gone wrong

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ENCINITAS, Calif. — A school science experiment gone horribly wrong left a 13-year-old North County boy with severe burns across his face.

Priest Rivera and other students at Capri Elementary School in Encinitas were doing an experiment called the “fire black snake,” which uses a combination of rubbing alcohol, sand and baking soda to create an oozing chemical reaction similar to popular “glow worm” fireworks.

But the June 13 experiment did not go as planned.

“The teacher started pouring more rubbing alcohol on the fire itself and it just exploded in my face,” Rivera told FOX 5. The teen says he was instantly covered in flames.

Priest’s mom was home at the time, and she lives close enough to the school that she actually heard the emergency response.

“I heard sirens in the distance, and I’m always praying, ‘Please let the kids be safe.’ I turned my water off and two seconds later the call came in,” Gina Rivera said.

Priest has undergone four surgeries for facial burns to his left cheek and neck area in the weeks since the accident. Back home now, he told FOX 5 his pain level hovers around an “8 out of 10.” He is expected to recover, but it remains to be seen how his scars will heal.

The Rivera family has filed a claim against the school district for millions of dollars, alleging the experiment was unsafely conducted.

Encinitas School District declined an interview request from FOX 5 but provided the following statement:

“The issue that you are asking about involves one of our students and is still under investigation by the district.  Due to the students’ right to privacy, we are unable to provide a response or update at this time.”

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