Koch loses a hand in kitchen experiment
Apparently, a young cook in Stahnsdorf in Brandenburg wanted to try out a modern recipe – from the so-called molecular kitchen. His handling of nitrogen ended in a huge explosion. The man lost his right hand in the end, the left hand was reattached in an operation lasting several hours.
Photo: Steffen Pletl
The young chef probably wanted to try out molecular cuisine. He wanted to experiment a little with liquid nitrogen – but that was his downfall. For unknown reasons, 24-year-old Martin E. caused a serious explosion in an apartment in Stahnsdorf (Potsdam-Mittelmark). He was seriously injured.
The young man had handled a bottle of liquid nitrogen for a recipe from the molecular kitchen around 23.20 in his girlfriend’s apartment. The container probably exploded because the pressure in it had risen massively due to the heating of the liquid. The shock wave hit the entire apartment on the first floor of John-Gaudenz-Strasse. Then Martin E. stood in the bathroom, covered in blood, his right hand had been shredded by the force.
In the accident hospital Marzahn (UKB) Martin E. was still in the night to Monday emergency operated. At first it was said that the left hand had been so badly injured that it had to be amputated. However, this information was corrected on Tuesday.
The “Handpapst” of Berlin saved a hand
According to Dr. Andreas Eisenschenk, head of the Department of Hand, Replantation and Microsurgery at the UKB, the hand was preserved in an eight-and-a-half-hour operation. She is said to have been connected to the forearm only in shreds, so she had to be reattached. Eisenschenk, who also operated on Charlyn, who was seriously injured after a bomb attack, assumes that he can restore the function of the left hand “to 60-70 percent”. “However, this will be very time-consuming and take up to half a year. Five to ten operations will be necessary,” said the surgeon Morgenpost Online. Eisenschenk is a specialist for the most difficult hand and arm injuries. In the media he is therefore also called the “hand pope of Berlin”.
Martin E. also suffered injuries in the genital area and a large flesh wound in the lower leg. This might suggest that he was holding the bottle of liquid nitrogen in front of his body. On Tuesday, the 24-year-old was still in mortal danger and had to be artificially ventilated.
His girlfriend Heike B. (16) was just as unhurt as her mother, who is said to have been in the apartment at the time.
Nitrogen does not simply explode
According to a police spokeswoman, the bathroom burned out completely during the explosion. “Nitrogen”, the spokeswoman continued, “does not explode without further ado.” Therefore, it must now be determined how the cook handled the chemical substance.
In the late Sunday evening the young cook from Teltow had finished work and had gone to his girlfriend in Stahnsdorf. But instead of sitting comfortably on the sofa with her, he disappeared into the bathroom with a bottle of liquid nitrogen. Then he apparently exploded while handling the substance. Liquid nitrogen must be stored in a special thermo-insulating container that allows the gas to escape. Or in a special pressure vessel that cannot explode. Because when the approximately minus 200 degrees cold, bubbling nitrogen warms up, it expands.
Heike B. alerted the rescue workers who arrived at the scene of the accident at 11.34 pm. Martin E., who was approachable, said at first that he had only tried to fill a gas lighter. However, his girlfriend said her boyfriend had tried to empty a nitrogen bottle.
The emergency doctor decided to let the life-threateningly injured Martin E. fly with the rescue helicopter to the accident hospital Berlin to Marzahn.
No sale to private individuals
At the scene of the accident forensic technicians secured traces and collected the remains of the burst container in which the liquid nitrogen had been found. How the 24-year-old had come into its possession remained unclear for the time being. “There are certain hurdles to getting liquid nitrogen,” says Stefan Metz, spokesman for The Linde Group, Germany’s leading industrial gas producer. “When liquid nitrogen is sold, we inform the buyers in detail about the safety regulations and have them sign it. As a rule, liquid nitrogen is not sold to private individuals either,” the spokesman continues.
Cooks need liquid nitrogen for molecular cuisine to create dishes with novel properties. For example, cold sorbet mass is mixed with liquid nitrogen until it has evaporated in order to obtain a special melt. Perhaps Martin E. also wanted to try out this modern way of cooking. His curiosity ended tragically.