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Yale senior dies from machine shop accident

by nickj on April 14, 2011

Michele Dufault, a senior Yale undergraduate, died in a chemistry machine shop on the university campus when her hair was caught in a wood lathe.

Dufault, 22, who has long brown hair in a Facebook picture published in the Yale Daily News (YDN), was an astronomy and physics major who was weeks away from graduation.

The New Haven Police Department received a call for help at the Laboratory, potentially asking for backup, at around 2:30 a.m., reports the YDN. Dufault was working on a project at night, although it is unclear exactly when the accident happened. Other students found her body and called the police.

"Vice President Lorimer, Dean Miller, and I have met with the family of Michele Dufault to extend our deepest sympathy and to offer all the assistance we can possibly provide at their most difficult time of grief. This is a true tragedy," wrote Yale President Richard Levin in an email sent to the campus.

According to the New York Times, a wood lathe is "notoriously dangerous."

"You have to be really careful around a machine like this because it has immense power. The lathe has revolving moving parts, and if your hair gets stuck in that, then your head would be pulled toward the machine," Manfred Philipp, a professor of chemistry at Lehman College, told the news source.

Following the accident, Yale is undergoing a review of safety practices and policies in its machine shops and other laboratories.

Dufault had previously participated in underwater robotics experiments at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and in a NASA-sponsored plasma physics project, reported the NYT.

Dufault's official autopsy said that she said from "asphyxia due to neck compression."

 

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