Science experiment explodes, severely burning 12-year-old, NC dad says. ‘Horrific’

·2 min read
Kyle McKim/Kyle McKim

A 12-year-old boy working on a science experiment was severely burned over half of his body when there was an explosion that also ignited his clothes, his father told McClatchy News.

On June 30, Barrett McKim was at the JMS Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia, recovering from two surgeries.

“Today was a pretty rough day,” his father, Kyle McKim, told McClatchy.

A week prior , Barrett was in his home in Highlands, North Carolina, experimenting with different rocks and fool’s gold, trying to change their color by heating them up on a Bunsen burner, his father said. Highlands is about 330 miles west of Raleigh.

“He’s big into any kind of science experiment,” his father said. “It’s something that he’s always loved.”

Barrett has conducted similar experiments in the past and is always responsible, his dad said.

“It was just kind of a freak accident,” he said. “It wasn’t like he was doing anything stupid.”

Suddenly, the alcohol he was using to heat the Bunsen burner caused an explosion, throwing flames onto Barrett and igniting a synthetic shirt he was wearing, Kyle McKim said.

His mother, Caroline, sprang into action and tried to tear his shirt off as it was burning. She has second- and third-degree burns on her hands and was also treated at the burn center.

“She was more concerned about her son than anything else,” Kyle McKim said.

When firefighters responded to the home, the boy’s parents had wrapped him in a cold, wet towel, Robbie Forrester, assistant chief of the Highlands Fire and Rescue, told McClatchy News.

“He was panicked and he was scared,” Forrester said. “But he was being brave.”

First responders put Barrett into an ambulance with his mother and brought them to a helicopter, which flew them to the burn center, Forrester said.

Doctors initially told the boy’s parents that he would be in the hospital for about a month, Kyle McKim said.

He is in “intense pain,” his father said. Doctors had to insert a feeding tube on June 30 because he wasn’t getting enough calories, and he was scheduled for a third surgery on July 1.

“It’s scary, and you want nothing more than to come up with a solution so that your child doesn’t have to go through a pain like that,” his father said.

But he was thankful to the community, which has come out in support of the family. Barrett’s uncle started a GoFundMe to collect donations to help the family through their son’s recovery.

Though it will be a long road, he said he expects his son, who is one of five children, to recover. And he hopes that his passion for science will endure.

“I think he will continue to have a love for that, and we will certainly encourage it,” he said.

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