Hazel ParkJuly 5, 2012
Hazel Park man loses leg in fireworks accident
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
Now that previously illegal fireworks are allowed by state law, the streets in many neighborhoods sound like a war zone — and in Hazel Park, one street actually looked like a war zone after a man blew off his leg on Independence Day.
The victim, a 21-year-old Hazel Park man, was shooting fireworks by the sidewalk in front of his home on East Hayes. The man, who uses a wheelchair, is said to have lit a large firework in his lap — only to drop it so that it detonated by his lower leg area.
His left leg from the kneecap down was blown off, the severed limb landing on the other side of the road.
The victim also suffered severe damage to his lower right ankle area.
Someone in the neighborhood called police, who rushed to the scene with an ambulance. They found the victim lying on the sidewalk, fading in and out of consciousness from blood loss. Since he was already paralyzed from the waist down, he couldn’t feel any pain.
The victim was taken to a hospital. At press time he was in stable condition.
Hazel Park Police Chief Martin Barner said a throng of people had been with the victim setting off fireworks. Beer bottles were located at the scene, but Barner said he doesn’t know whether alcohol was a factor in the accident.
Police described the scene of the incident as a gory mess.
“Of course, it’s a very traumatic thing to witness for these people who aren’t used to seeing such things,” Barner said.
“People need to know this: Just because the Legislature decided to legalize fireworks, it doesn’t make them any less dangerous,” he added.
Earlier this year, the state legalized consumer fireworks. Previously, only low-impact and novelty items were allowed. The state’s reason was that people were already driving across the border to other states where the items are legal and smuggling them back. The state decided to legalize fireworks to generate some revenue.
The law also requires that fireworks be allowed on 10 national holidays, as well as the day before and after each, for a total of 30 days.
“I don’t necessarily agree with the Legislature,” Barner said. “We had enough problems before fireworks were legal, and now it’s been compounded by the legalization of these devices, which were inherently dangerous to begin with, and that’s why they were regulated before, because of the danger of improper use and handling.”
He said the incident with the Hazel Park victim is one example. He also points to other examples: debris clogging up drains; booms startling dogs, babies and the elderly; and fire hazards.
“As far as I know, there are no classes that teach people the proper use and handling of explosive devices, which is what fireworks are,” Barner said.
The chief said he wants everyone to have a good time and enjoy themselves on the holidays, but to be responsible if they use fireworks.
Be aware of when and where you light them, factoring in nearby people, property, weather conditions and so on.
“Use common sense,” Barner said.
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