Research assistant dies of injuries suffered in December lab fire
By Office of Media Relations January 19, 2009 Category: Campus News
A staff research assistant who was seriously burned last month in a laboratory fire at UCLA died of her injuries Jan. 16 at the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji, 23, of Los Angeles, incurred second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body on Dec. 29 before the chemical fire was extinguished by a colleague. She was initially treated at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and then transferred to the Grossman Center.
"The entire Bruin community was deeply saddened to learn of Sheharbano's passing and the tragic accident," Chancellor Gene Block said. "She was a loved and highly valued member of our staff, and she will not be forgotten here."
The accident occurred in UCLA's Molecular Sciences Building while Sangji was working with t-butyl lithium, a highly flammable compound that spontaneously burns upon exposure to air, campus administrators said. The events that led to the compound igniting are still under investigation, but the fire engulfed her clothes. Sangji had been employed at UCLA since October.
The safety of faculty and staff who work in UCLA's laboratories and utilize chemicals in their research is a campus priority, officials said. The UCLA Department of Environment, Health and Safety oversees a comprehensive training and inspection program aimed at ensuring lab safety.
Following the Dec. 29 incident, UCLA initiated a top-to-bottom review of safety protocols and an immediate inspection of laboratories in the Molecular Sciences Building, as well as other labs utilized by the department of chemistry and biochemistry.
UCLA is cooperating fully with investigations being conducted by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (also known as Cal/OSHA) and the state fire marshal.