It was a quiet morning on campus in mid-June 1988. Professor Anton Schreiner was in the midst of teaching a chemistry class in Dabney Hall.
Then 9:42 a.m. came on this day 26 years ago, and news of a fluorine leak from the building’s laster system spread. Shreiner’s students left the building along with everybody else in there.
“I heard someone run by and scream, ‘Fluorine leak!’ and grabbed my stuff and left,” said Brian Buckley, a doctoral student working on research in Dabney, said in the Technician.
The leak of the corrosive gas occurred on Dabney’s seventh floor and led to the evacuation of hundreds of students, faculty and staff from both Dabney and Cox halls.
The cause was the rupture of a copper pipe that carried a helium/fluorine mixture for a laser. One firefighter sustained injuries from a chemical burn, and someone broke into one of the evacuated buildings to steal a Macintosh II personal computer.
“Friday afternoon there were still a few dozen people from the connected halls waiting outside, sipping iced tea and soda provided by the fire department,” the Technician reported. “They were not able to go home because in their rush to leave when the alarms went off, they left behind purses, wallets important notes and car keys.”
But by Saturday morning, Cox and Dabney were re-opened.