4 hurt when experimental rocket explodes at U. of Idaho

Posted April 15, 2017

University of Idaho officials say four people were injured in an explosion that happened in a parking lot where people had gathered to test an experimental rocket.

Vice president for infrastructure Daniel Ewart said the explosion happened just before 10pm on Thursday night outside the university's steam plant.

He said all four were transported to Gritman Medical Center for treatment. However, the University later tweeted that all those involved were "alert" and communicating with the University by Friday morning.

A faculty adviser to the Northwest Organization of Rocket Engineers club was with the students, university spokeswoman Jodi Walker said. Ewart said the campus has been deemed safe and classes will proceed as usual.

The device was a galvanized metal pipe, between 8 and 12 inches long and about 1 1/2 inches in diameter that had been filled with rocket fuel.

"The device that was exploded was actually a test for the rocket fuel itself, it was not meant to be a rocket", he said.

The University of Idaho confirmed the people injured were all students.

"There is no reason to believe this is anything other than an accident at this point", Walker said.

The students, part of the Northwest Organization of Rocket Engineers, said they were testing a new fuel design. The other co-president who stood near the explosion wore eye protection but not a face shield, Thurman said.

Grant Thurman, a University of Idaho student who was at the scene when the rocket exploded, said the group had tested the rocket last week, but made several changes before they tested it again Thursday night. The faculty advisor of the student club was reportedly in attendance for the experiment.

The explosion occurred at approximately 9:52 p.m. local time.

Per standard protocol, the FBI did investigate the scene Thursday night.

School officials will hold a press conference Friday morning at eight a.m.