Yale Student Killed in Lab Accident

A Yale senior was killed in tragic accident when she was strangled by a piece of equipment in a lab machine shop while working on her senior project.

Michele Dufault died on Tuesday night in what school officials said appears to have been a terrible accident involving a piece of equipment in the student machine shop in the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory. The medical examiner determined that she died of accidental asphyxia due to neck compression.

Dufault's hair became caught around a metal lathe, which pulled her in, according to the university. Other students who had been working in the lab early Wednesday morning found Default's body and called 911, Yale President Richard Levin said.

“By all reports, Michele was an exceptional young woman, an outstanding student and young scientist, a dear friend and a vibrant member of this community. We will find ways in the next day to gather to celebrate her life and grieve this loss,” Linda Lorimer, Vice President and Secretary of Yale, said in a news release on Wednesday morning.

Dufault was from Scituate, Massachusetts and would have graduated on May 23. Her parents arrived on the New Haven campus Wednesday and met with Levin, Lorimer and Dean of Yale College Mary Miller.

"Our hearts go out to Michele's family and friends. Mr. and Mrs. Dufault will be returning to campus before the end of the semester for a Memorial Service to honor Michele," Levin said.

The machine shop allows students, faculty, and staff to construct or modify research instrumentation, according to the Chemistry Department Web site. Access is strictly limited to those who have completed the shop course.

Dufault played in the Yale Precision Marching Band, was a summer student fellow at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and was studying astronomy and physics, according to her Linked In profile. She was on the organizing committee for the Northeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics.

Dufault was a senior in Saybrook College.

"She was a living saint," her grandfather Robert Dufault said. "She was a good, smart girl."

An uncle called her brilliant.

"She's a wonderful, wonderful kid and that should be celebrated. There's nothing but good things to say about her," said Frederick Dufault of Holliston, Mass.

The Sterling Chemistry Laboratory is closed on Wednesday and classes and labs are canceled for the day.

Yale is making resources available to the university community to cope with the tragedy. School officials said they will find ways to celebrate Michele's life and grieve her loss.

The university told the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration that Dufault was operating the machinery for a senior project when she was killed, according to Kang Yi, an assistant area director for OSHA in Bridgeport.

OSHA was reviewing jurisdiction in the case and evaluating whether it would conduct an inspection, said Ted Fitzgerald, an agency spokesman in Boston.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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