Student instructed to light a match on stage, cardboard set caught fire

dvsDave

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WARNING! Disturbing footage. This horrific footage captured the moment two girls were set alight in the middle of a school play.


Izucar de Matamoros, central Mexico

Story from mirror.co.uk

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The video shows a girl can be seen walking towards the middle of the stage where the large cardboard box is.
She is talking over it and says: "...and with no more lies," before lighting a match, and throwing it towards the prop. It catches on fire immediately and suddenly the two students jump up with flames all over their bodies. One of them runs straight off stage while the other runs around panicking as the student who lit the match tries to put out the fire that can be seen burning her hair and left arm.

The high school students named as 16-year-old Veronica and 17-year-old Athziri were rushed to hospital in their home town of Izucar de Matamoros, in Mexico. Veronica has since been released while Athziri is still being treated for second degree burns.

The family of one of the girls demanded that the teacher be sacked, saying that there was a lack of proper supervision and security measures.

The teacher had reportedly said at the time that the play should be as real as possible.

The insurance company which covers the school also declined to take responsibility for the students’ medical bills as they said the fire was not accidental.

School authorities confirmed that the member of staff responsible had been sacked.

They said: "The teacher responsible for the class has been removed from the institution, after an investigation uncovered an omission on his part during the planning of the activity."

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I'm sorry to say that this happened back in July and as far as I can tell, no one in our industry picked up this news till I saw this on the /r/techtheatre/ reddit group where it was only posted 2 days ago.

This is why we take such a strong stance on Safety on ControlBooth.

I am pissed right now, I am having trouble processing this. Every accident, every school play mishap, every senseless death and injury that I see in school theatre makes me wonder what CB might have been able to prevent if even just one student at that school had known about us. Call me arrogant or a dreamer, but this is why we are here. This is why thousands of you spend your time on ControlBooth, why we all strive to make our industry a better place. Please, reach out to every school you have contact with and make sure the students know there is a place they can come with any question about theatre or safety.
 
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gafftaper

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Wow, that's amazingly stupid. It's interesting how rapidly and evenly the flames spread out on the floor in front. Having tried to start a camp fire with Cardboard, I'm pretty confident saying cardboard doesn't ignite that fast. It looks to me like there is some sort of accelerant involved.

Yes, schools need good techs to help. Call your local school drama teacher and offer to volunteer once to be a safety resource.
 

dvsDave

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It looks like the cardboard "table" was holding a pan or aluminum foil dish which had an accelerant in it. You can sorta see it at the bottom when it gets knocked over. I think that's the thud/smack sound around 8 seconds in. It looks like aluminium foil because it doesn't hold it's form when its on the ground. Just a theory though.
 

What Rigger?

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This is also an excellent example of the difference in standards/law/mindset from region to region, culture to culture. I like to think that most people would see the inherent dangers in this setup, but I've also been in venues in South Korea where the emergency exits were kept chained shut. (I elected to keep our bolt cutters out and ready to go while waiting for that situation to be resolved). You think rebar is standard in concrete work, world wide- right? Mmmmmaybe not in China, based on recent stuff friends have experienced over there.

But Dave is right: this kind of stuff is still infuriating, and it is why we're here. Sometimes I almost start to think that most of what I say here is "Don't do rigging and flying on your own"...but the fact remains that this is probably what needs to be said until even after we're all feeding worms.

So there it is. We keep doing what we're doing. Rock on.
 
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Interesting. Surprises me how long it takes the person behind the camera to drop the camera. Scary thing is this type of thing can happen just about anywhere. The number of near misses out there is kind of crazy. All you have to do is do one outdoor festival season and you will see more stages held together with harbor freight ratchet straps then you care to. I amazes me we don't kill more people. Really, it does.

This happened in Mexico City in a high school. Those schools are like anything you would find in the US. The teachers are well educated. The students are well educated and from mostly middle class family's. Don't for a second think this could not happen here in a class room in your area. People make stupid decisions all the time. Shoddy construction, poor code enforcement, safety lapses, and everything else that can cause people to die is not just a cultural issue. It happens in the US too. All the time.



....And just on a more personal note... lets remove the word "schoolgirl" from this. I know the brits like that word but they also use the word "schoolboy" as an insult meant to belittle. Both are rather degrading to everyone involved. There are better words to describe female students.
 

dvsDave

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....And just on a more personal note... lets remove the word "schoolgirl" from this. I know the brits like that word but they also use the word "schoolboy" as an insult meant to belittle. Both are rather degrading to everyone involved. There are better words to describe female students.
Article has been updated.
 

JohnD

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The teacher had reportedly said at the time that the play should be as real as possible.
Yeah, that veracity will get you every time, doing Sweeney Todd, sure use a real razor, what could go wrong, have a hanging scene, well heck, just grab some rope, want some one flying above the stage, well good Ol' Soandso teaches rock climbing and has all the gear.
 

Tom Andrews

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Wow. This is super bad and so unnecessary. All of the comments above about the safety mindset and the need to bring this awareness and caution to be in place everywhere are spot on, and so true.
I agree about the accelerant. Cardboard doesn't catch that fast, and the flame spreading on the floor is a tell-tale sign of liquid. I'm guessing that perhaps the fire was supposed to stay within the tray and not engulf the cardboard in flames, which could have been a nice effect.

There are really 2 major things that they did wrong: 1. The cardboard wasn't treated to be fire retardant. There are flame retardants available and used in Mexico. 2. The flame effect was not secured in place and probably not in the proper type of container. There are several sub-items of #2 also, like, they probably didn't do any testing before the actual show which would let them know they might have issues; maybe use something else, instead of alcohol or paint thinner or whatever inexpensive flammable liquid they used.

The other thing I want to stress, is that there are ways to have flame on stage in a safe, controlled manner. It just needs a lot of safety applied to it, and a big change in the mindset of people.

Having come out of off-off Broadway experimental theater, working magic with no money, I did many things that were less than safe, because, that's the way it was. Now, I have a very different view and approach. I also see a greater emphasis on safety pretty much everywhere, including off-off Broadway, so the safety mindset IS spreading. So there's hope.
 

jimonlight

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Whoa.

I mean, we had quite the manipulative drama teacher in high school that probably f**ked us all up for life, but this is nuts.

Erich Friend is going to have something brilliant to say on this, so I would most definitely keep a watch on the Theatre Safety Blog...

I would most definitely say that the staff member responsible for this needs to go... far, far away from our profession.

Jim
JimOnLight
 

Van

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Stupid. STUPID ! This infuriates me.
 
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RonHebbard

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Stupid. STUPID ! This infuriates me.
A nice floppy shallow aluminum tray of liquid accellerant, painted cardboard, add matches and stir. Textbook stuff. Stupid in UPPER CASE indeed. Why not sell tickets and invite an audience?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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Blassiter

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It looks like metallic spray paint or an oil based metallic on the cardboard the saturation and sheen are not quite right for latex or acrylic, so we have flammable vapors in the mix. This was so preventable, it is infuriating, no fire extinguisher or fire buckets, absolutely no thought something could go wrong. I am seriously thinking about showing this to my tech students, when we have fire safety talk.
 

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It looks like metallic spray paint or an oil based metallic on the cardboard the saturation and sheen are not quite right for latex or acrylic, so we have flammable vapors in the mix. This was so preventable, it is infuriating, no fire extinguisher or fire buckets, absolutely no thought something could go wrong. I am seriously thinking about showing this to my tech students, when we have fire safety talk.
As long as both girls survive, I absolutely intend to show this to my students. Just need to run it by administration first. Don't want to risk it, but this is a very teachable moment.
 

JChenault

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As long as both girls survive, I absolutely intend to show this to my students. Just need to run it by administration first. Don't want to risk it, but this is a very teachable moment.
Ok. I'm not a HS educator, but I honestly don't understand why the survival of the girls matters to the suitability of showing this video to your students. Can you explain your thinking?
 

TheaterEd

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Ok. I'm not a HS educator, but I honestly don't understand why the survival of the girls matters to the suitability of showing this video to your students. Can you explain your thinking?
I don't want to show children videos of people dying.....

That being said, this happened back in July so my guess is the story would have been updated if they had passed.
 
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dvsDave

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As far as I know, the girl who lit the match was in and out of the hospital pretty quickly, and the article said the girl that was under the table was recovering from 2nd degree burns.
 

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"If the bit involves *purposeful* danger (everything on a stage *can* be dangerous), then you only do anything related to it if there is an Insured Paid Professional on the stage with the effect at all time. Artistic chain of command is not permitted to violate this rule."

[ 'Purposeful' danger involves any weapons, simulated or otherwise, fire/pyro, any rigging/flying including simulated hanging, and any kind of fighting. ]