Courage under fire - Teenager stands tall in classroom calamity

YEAR 8 Tamworth High School student Chaleb Londero has recounted the traumatic moments after he saw his mate, Josh McCulloch, catch alight during a science experiment gone wrong last Friday.

Chaleb said they were boiling methylated spirits in a beaker and, after being heated for five minutes, it had started to boil, but were told they didn’t have enough spirits in their beaker, so would need to add more. They removed the bunsen burner and poured more methylated spirits into the beaker, which started the fire.

“Because there were fumes in the air, they also caught alight, which caused the other boy to be set on fire,” he said. Chaleb said he would have thought 13-year-old Josh would have been the last to catch alight, but the fire ran across the desk in front of Chaleb and another boy and set Josh alight.

“He instantly dropped on the floor, but he didn’t roll. We  were telling him to roll but he couldn’t hear us because people were screaming,” he said.

“The fire didn’t go out so another boy tried to smother the fire on his back with his hands and feet while I smothered the fire on his face, hair and collar with my hands. After his hair, face and collar were put out, we stood back to get out of the road so the teacher could use the fire blanket.”

It is understood the teacher might have minor burns to his hands.

Another boy in the class took his shirt off and tried to get to Josh, but Chaleb said the boy was obstructed by students watching the scene unfold.

When the fire was out, the students were sent from the classroom to another classroom and Chaleb said the Ambulance paramedics were there within 10 minutes.

“I was pretty scared to start off with, but when he was rolling, I noticed the fire wasn’t going out, so I thought I should put the fire out on his face while my other mate tried to put his back out,” Chaleb said.

Chaleb said he had heard his friend would spend five weeks in Westmead Hospital for burns to 22 per cent of his back and half his face.

This could have been far worse, though, without the quick actions of Chaleb and his friend.

He shies away from the hero tag, though.

“I wouldn’t say my actions were heroic,” he said.

“Everybody reacts differently in high pressure situations. I just did what I could to help my mate. It’s going to take a lot of effort from a lot of people to help him recover, I just helped out with the first part.”

The students’ parents were contacted and Chaleb’s dad, Josh, picked his son up from the school.

Mr Londero is qualified in first aid and said he hoped some of what he had taught Josh helped in this situation.

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