A 34-year-old science teacher died from smoke inhalation Friday morning following an explosion inside a laboratory at the University of Health Sciences in Phnom Penh, officials said.
Lon Moniroth, bureau chief of the Phnom Penh municipal forensic police, said that the teacher, Huy Siep, is thought to have accidently caused the explosion by spraying a flammable gas inside the second-story classroom while preparing for a lesson.
“It was a can of flammable spray that started the fire. He came first to prepare the lab equipment for showing his students and was careless with using the equipment,” Mr. Moniroth said.
“When the explosion erupted he tried to put out the fire and shouted for help but he lost his breath and went to sit on a chair and died,” he added.
Oum Chantha, deputy chief of the municipal fire police, said the blaze started at about 6:20 a.m. but his firefighters could not extinguish it in time to save the victim.
“We used two trucks to put out the fire…we saw the victim had died on a chair with burns to his body,” he said.
A security guard at the university, Loek Ner, also attempted to save the victim from the flames but could not make his way through smoke emanating from the laboratory.
“I heard an explosion from the lab and heard the victim shouting ‘help, help,’” Mr. Ner said. “We tried to save him from the room but it was very dark smoke and we couldn’t see anything,” he added.
Prum Yorn, chief of the municipal fire police, said his officials were analyzing equipment inside the laboratory to assess how the blaze started but were yet to come to a conclusion.
Health Minister Mam Bunheng visited the scene Friday morning and offered his condolences.
“The victim came here early to prepare things for his students…we offer our sorrows for his death and we will give assistance for his funeral,” the minister said.