Almanac

News - September 14, 2011

Funeral held for scientist killed in lab explosion

by Sandy Brundage

Adrian Martin, the 56-year-old scientist killed in an explosion at Membrane Technology and Research Inc. in Menlo Park on Sept. 2, was quietly laid to rest last week.

According to the Lima & Capagna Mortuary, his family held a service in San Jose on Wednesday and attended the burial the following day. The family chose not to provide an obituary; Mr. Martin left behind a wife, Livia, and a 17-year-old daughter.

At the time of the explosion, Mr. Martin was preparing a pre-gas mixture involving methane, helium, and nitrogen, said Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. A woman standing near the door of the lab was thrown clear and survived, with some damage to her eardrum.

Responding to the lab at 1360 Willow Road, fire officials found a leaking methane cylinder, although it wasn't clear if the cylinder was leaking before the explosion, or if the blast caused the leak.

The California Occupational Health and Safety Association (Cal-OSHA) inquiry into the explosion continues. Based on the little known to date, spokesperson Patricia Ortiz said, it appears Mr. Martin was transferring compressed gas from one cylinder to another when a cylinder exploded. That section of the laboratory has remained closed since Cal-OSHA issued a shut-down order immediately after the accident.

She said that investigators from both the district office and the pressurized vessel unit are questioning "anyone and everyone around, including the employer and other employees, to determine what exactly happened" and are also inspecting the remaining cylinders near the blast site.

"By law we are required to finish the investigation within six months, but they typically take two to four months," Ms. Ortiz said.

Membrane Technology had no record of safety violations, she said.

According to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 28 scientists killed at work in 2010, none died due to explosions or chemicals.

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