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Small explosion inside USF research lab | News

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Small explosion inside USF research lab

Tampa, Florida -- Science can be messy. Thankfully on Wednesday morning, it wasn't also deadly.

University of South Florida police got calls from their alarm company and a 911 caller around 2:30 a.m. about an explosion.

Officers raced to the source of the sound, a chemistry lab on the ground floor of a four-story building: part of the USF Research Park in the southern portion of the USF Tampa campus.

"When they went to investigate, they saw that a window had been busted out," Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny said. "And upon further inspection, they saw that it was the interior portion of double-pane glass." 

The door of a full-size refrigerator had been blown off, rocketing 20 feet through the air. It hurtled across the entire laboratory, shattering the window and landing beneath the broken glass pane. 

No one was in the lab at the time. The 911 caller, working in a nearby lab in the same building, got out safely.

If the blast had happened at 2:30 p.m. instead of 2:30 a.m., some of the brightest minds -- doing some of the most important work in Tampa Bay -- could have been lost.

Chemists use that lab to save lives, creating new cutting-edge cancer drugs.

Firefighters kept people out of the building Wednesday morning while they worked with chemists from Intezyne Technologies to figure out whether anything in the lab was still dangerous.

Intezyne leases space in the building in the USF Research Park, which is full of similar scientific companies.

Intezyne CEO Habib Skaff told 10 News he thinks his team can have the lab quickly cleaned up and back to its important work of creating new drugs to fight cancer soon.

Skaff said he didn't know what materials in the refrigerator could have caused the small explosion. The City of Tampa Fire Marshal's office is working with other agencies to figure out what led to the blast. 

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