CSUF prank disrupts finals, makes 4 ill CRIME: A professor may be responsible for toilet blasts that displace thousands of Fullerton students

North County News

Orange County Register
29 May 1993: b01.

A prankster disrupted final examinations for about 4,000 California State University students Friday morning by putting an explosive chemical in campus toilets.

Campus police were investigating the possibility that the prank — which cost the university an estimated $10,000 — was staged by a professor. No arrests had been made as of late Friday.

A custodian who discovered the substance at about 5:15 a.m. tried to flush the TNT-like chemical down the toilet, inadvertently setting off several small explosions, authorities said.

Three custodians and a campus police officer were taken to St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton after inhaling fumes expelled by the chemical, nitrogen tri-iodide. The four later were released.

The explosions did not damage the fifth-floor restrooms in McCarthy Hall, the university’s six-story science building.

“If someone was to sit on the toilet with (that) amount (of chemical), it could be lethal,” said Jim Lightner, the school’s laboratory manager.

About 4,000 students had to take final exams in Titan Stadium and in the quad area while the building and other campus restrooms were searched.

The university owes the Anaheim Hazardous Materials Team and the sheriff’s bomb squad about $10,000 for handling the incident, Fullerton city spokeswoman Sylvia Palmer said.

Register staff writer Erin Kelly contributed to this report.

Copyright Orange County Register May 29, 1993