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Firefighters mill about outside the ABC Research Corp., 3437 SW 24th Ave., where HazMat and Alachua County Fire Rescue responded to the injury of a woman. She was working with ethanol when it exploded.

BRIAN W. KRATZER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

Explosion at research company burns woman

  • A small chemical explosion at a Gainesville research company left one woman injured with burns to her face Wednesday, firefighters and deputies reported.

  • Maria T. Fernandez, an analyst at the ABC Research Corp., 3437 SW 24th Ave., was treated and released from Shands at the University of Florida following a fire at the business at about 11:15 a.m., officials said.

    The cause of the explosion remained under investigation late Wednesday.

    "They were heating something up with ethanol," said Alachua County Fire Rescue District Chief Ed Kennedy.

    Ethanol is a colorless, flammable chemical compound.

    It's suspected that ethanol fumes came in contact with an electrical source outside of a safety hood were the ethanol was being used, Kennedy said.

    Fire from the explosion spread into a vent system. Employees, however, put out the blaze with fire extinguishers.

    About 25 people were evacuated from the business. They were allowed to return about one hour later, after the building was ventilated, Kennedy said.

    Elderly woman escapes injury in Gainesville fire

  • A fire broke out at a northwest Gainesville home but an elderly woman escaped without any injuries, police said.

    Louise Johnson, 79, told officers she was at home alone when she saw flames in her house at 1950 NW 2nd St., said Gainesville Police Officer Stephanie Pridgen.

    Pridgen arrived at the home and saw gray smoke coming off the porch.

    Firefighters quickly had the blaze, which started at about noon, under control.

    The fire apparently started in a bedroom, Pridgen said, but the cause had not been determined.

    - Lise Fisher

    Child is charged with boating homicide

  • KEY WEST - A 13-year-old boater who authorities said sped away from a fatal collision with a 6-year-old snorkeler, was charged with vessel homicide Wednesday.

    Christopher J. Ruiz drove his 18-foot skiff over Charlie Smith, who was snorkeling off Key West with his father and a sibling next to their motorboat on Monday, said Lt. Steve Acton of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    Ruiz then crashed into the motorboat, causing it to sink. He paused momentarily before taking off, Acton said. Authorities are still investigating whether the teenager was operating the skiff legally.

    According to Florida law, anyone under 21 years old who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more must pass an approved boater safety course or have an adult aboard.

    "We don't know if (Ruiz) had done that or not. That's one of the things we're going to look at," Acton said.

    Ruiz was taken into custody for questioning on the day of the accident and then released to his parents pending the outcome of the investigation, Acton said.

    The teen will be charged as a juvenile. Vessel homicide is a first-degree felony carrying a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Ruiz's parents turned him over to juvenile detention officers Wednesday.

    - The Associated Press

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