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The Daily Wildcat

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Student suing UA after meteorite crushes hand in Flandrau

Flandrau+Science+Center+and+Planetarium+under+street+lights+on+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+15.+A+student+is+suing+the+UA+after+a+meteorite+in+the+science+center+fell+and+crushed+his+hand.
Zi Yang Lai

Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium under street lights on Tuesday, Sept. 15. A student is suing the UA after a meteorite in the science center fell and crushed his hand.

A UA student is suing the university after a meteorite fell on his hand while completing community service at Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium.

According to a Sept. 8 complaint filed with the Pima County Superior Court, Grant Black, a freshman at the time, was awaiting direction between tasks when the 270 pound Canyon Diablo meteorite fell and crushed his hand.

The meteorite displayed at Flandrau is a fragment of a larger meteor that created the Barringer Crater east of Flagstaff, and has been on display at the UA for a number of years.

The complaint says that while the students completing community service were between tasks and awaiting direction, one of the students attempted to move the meteorite.

While the meteorite did not fall on this student, the complaint continues, Black also “attempted to touch, and/or otherwise foreseeably interact with the Canyon Diablo meteorite” later in the day, and caused it to fall.

Flandrau and Black declined to comment on the case, but a Flandrau employee stated the University of Arizona Police Department and the dean of students defer a large majority of community service work to the planetarium.

Notably, the meteorite was also accompanied by a sign, which in bold orange print read, “Please Touch.”

The primary argument against the university is in regards to the stand in which the meteorite was displayed, which consists of three metal poles. The tripod-like stand originally had black steel disks fixed to the bottom to ensure its stability.

In the months preceding Black’s accident, the UA had loaned the meteorite to Science Downtown’s exhibition located in downtown Tucson. The exhibit, titled “Mars and Beyond: The Search for Life on Other Planets,” had its stabilizing discs removed from the meteorite’s display for unknown reasons.

Upon its return to the university, the discs were never reattached to the display stand. The meteorite was instead placed back into Flandrau’s collection without the added stability.

According to the complaint, “This modification [to the display stand] made the Canyon Diablo meteorite display unstable and unreasonably dangerous.”

The civil suit cites negligence and premises liability on behalf of the university for not addressing the issue.

According to the complaint, “At all times relevant to this action, Defendants, all of them, owed members of the public who would foreseeably interact with the Canyon Diablo Meteorite display, including Grant Black, a duty to exercise due care in the conception, display, signing and maintenance of the Canyon Diablo Meteorite display. … At all times relevant to this action, Defendants, all of them, failed to meet this obligation to act reasonably.”

The university’s legal department declined to comment, citing policies against discussing ongoing cases.


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