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UCLA chemistry professor to plead not guilty in fatal laboratory fire case

January 09, 2012
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LOS ANGELES — A UCLA chemistry professor will plead not guilty to a felony complaint filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office in late December in relation to a fatal 2008 laboratory fire that resulted in the death of a UCLA staff research assistant, the Daily Bruin reported.

On Dec. 29, 2008, Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji was working in the Molecular Sciences Building when she suffered second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body, the article stated.

While handling t-butyl lithium, a highly flammable, air-sensitive chemical, the stopper of Sangji’s syringe came undone and the liquid spilled out and ignited. She died 18 days later.

A criminal complaint was filed, charging Professor Patrick Harran and the UC Board of Regents with three counts each of willfully violating occupational health and safety standards.

Harran and the university are accused of failing to provide proper chemical safety training, to provide procedures for correcting unsafe work conditions in a timely manner and to require clothing appropriate for the work being done, according to the felony complaint.

“As we have been saying all along, the filing of charges is the first step toward any kind of justice for what Harran and UCLA did to our family. It won’t bring Sheri back, but we do hope this will keep other young people safe and keep other families from being destroyed,” Naveen Sangji, Sheri Sangji’s sister, told the Los Angeles Times.
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