A chemistry lab explosion at Southwest Tennessee Community College's Union Avenue campus Wednesday injured a professor and three students, authorities said.
The male professor, whose name was not immediately released, apparently shielded students from much of the blast, rushing to aid a group experimenting with a mixture of phosphoric acid and an alcohol called 2-methylcyclohoexanol that began to smoke, according to students and college officials.
"He became aware of the imminent danger and did take the brunt of the explosion himself," said Karen Nippert, vice president for institutional advancement for Southwest.
"There was just a loud explosion," said Troy Cox, 21, in a physical science class next door when the explosion shook room 232 in Building M, at the corner of Union and Manassas, just after noon.
"I saw the teacher was bleeding," from arm and head injuries, Cox said.
A spokesman for the Memphis Fire Department, Lt. Wayne Cooke, said the professor suffered cuts and burns and was transported to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. Glass cut one of his arms and he had holes in his clothing, according to college officials.
College officials also reported that several people suffered injuries, including at least two students with burns. A total of three female students were taken to The Med for treatment, Cooke said.
A red fire department hazardous material decontamination trailer was stationed in the middle of Manassas Street to help treat the victims of the explosion.
Several students who had been in the organic chemistry class washed their hands and arms in large white buckets filled by a fire hose before first responders packed up.
Building M was evacuated after the blast and Nippert said college officials would decide later when it would reopen. She said there was no problem with chemical hazards, but normal cleanup and repair will be required for the classroom lab.
Except for Building M, access to the campus returned to normal by about 2:30 p.m.