The sodium that exploded in 2007 and injured volunteers from a Charles River clean up crew was thrown into the river by Bhaskar Mookerji G, a Tau Epsilon Phi brother, according to public court documents.
Mookerji confessed that he threw the sodium into the Charles on or around Sept. 4, 2007. On Sept. 6, river clean-up volunteers were injured when they found the metal. Mookerji is a current Course VI graduate student and is a member of the Class of 2009.
Mookerji’s confession, dated April 30, 2008, is part of the file for Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Bhaskar Mookerji, a now-closed criminal case. The case file also includes a Suffolk County (Boston) Police Detective’s report on the incident.
The Tech recently became aware of the criminal case from a reference in an ongoing civil case, Thomas Soisson and Katherine Nardin v. Bhaskar Mookerji, AMRCO LLC, Brian Neltner, Tau Epsilon Phi National Fraternity, Tau Epsilon Phi XI Chapter, and Matthew Peddie.
On September 6, 2007, while volunteering for the Charles River Clean-Up Boat, Katherine (Kate) Narden, Thomas Soisson, Patrick Hodgins, and Matt McCord were injured by an exploding piece of sodium metal they had picked up. Soisson and Narden suffered severe chemical burns to legs, forearms, and facial areas as a result of the explosion, according to a doctor’s account referenced in the detective’s report.
As detectives began to investigate the incident, they shifted their attention from MIT’s annual sodium drop to a smaller event conducted by Tau Epsilon Phi, an MIT fraternity.
Through conversations with Matthew Gordon ’08 and Timothy M. Rades ’09, who are TEP brothers, police discovered that the sodium that caused injury had come from TEP’s sodium drop, that the sodium had come from the house, and that Mookerji, along with then-TEP Chancellor Matthew T. Peddie ’09, Michael T. Snella G, and Thomas C. Guerra ’10 had visited then-Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict to inform him of the incident, the detective’s report said.
Police visited various MIT labs that handle sodium on Sept. 10. The TEP brothers’ visit to Dean Benedict occurred at 8 a.m. on Sept. 14, the report said. Detectives and MIT police jointly visited TEP and interviewed Rades on Sept. 14.
Boston police found out that Brian Neltner, a Course II graduate student, had ordered a shipment of various chemical substances from the chemical supplier Alfa Aesar under the name of “Evil Corp,” the report said.
A search warrant was served on Neltner’s Somerville residence on Sept. 21, according to the report.
There were two other shipments billed to Neltner from Alfa Aesar, company representatives told detectives. These shipments were shipped to “AMRCO LLC” and contained two pounds of sodium ingot, 250 grams of sodium, one liter of ethanol, one liter of acetone, and other chemically reactive substances.
AMRCO LLC is registered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at Neltner and Snella’s address. According to its certificate of organization filed in May 2006, “the company is an invention workshop and think tank, the primary business of which will be the invention and production of novel devices and licensing intellectual property.”
Neltner and Mookerji, both the subject of pending civil litigation, declined to comment to The Tech.
Neltner stored some of the sodium in a container with a note that read approximately “don’t be stupid with this,” according to statements from Jeffrey J. Kuna G in the detective’s report.
The detective’s report identifies Mookerji as having been responsible for throwing the block of sodium into the water. The sodium that caused the Sept. 7 explosion had broken off from the initial block of sodium thrown by Mookerji, detectives concluded.
Because Mookerji threw the metal, prosecutors were prepared to charge him with discharging a pollutant into the waters of the Commonwealth was well as with disorderly conduct. But Mookerji was able to negotiate pretrial probation of six months, during which he performed community service and, according to the case docket, was required to pay “restitution of $4,000 and not to exceed $5,000.”
Mookerji’s community service included “over 40 hours of … database management assistance” to the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans.
Because his pretrial probation was successfully completed, Mookerji was not formally charged.