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UCLA professor to stand trial in fatal lab fire

Sheharbano 'Sheri' Sangji was killed in a fire at UCLA on Monday, Dec. 29, 2008.

April 27, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A University of California, Los Angeles chemistry professor has been ordered to stand trial for a lab fire that killed a research assistant.

Patrick Harran, 43, has been charged with three felony counts of violating safety standards leading to the death of Sheharbano "Sheri" Sangji.

The 23-year-old victim was badly burned in Harran's organic chemistry laboratory on Dec. 29, 2008 when she transferred a highly flammable material without wearing a lab coat. The experiment burst into flames.

Sangji was burned over 43 percent of her body and succumbed to her injuries 18 days later, according to county prosecutors.

Harran's attorneys asked that the charges be dismissed or reduced but a judge rejected both requests.

The university and his defense maintain it was a tragic incident that doesn't merit criminal charges.

"The accident that took Sheri Sangji's life was a terrible tragedy for our campus, and I can't behind to imagine the devastation to her family. We must remember, however, that this was an accident, not a crime," UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block said Friday in a statement.

Harran is scheduled to be arraigned in May. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.