MUSCATINE, Iowa – A Muscatine man lost his hand and two others suffered serious injuries in a fireworks incident Thursday afternoon in the East Hill area of Muscatine, according to the city's website.
Assistant Fire Chief Michael Hartman said that this was the most serious incident in Muscatine related to fireworks since the State of Iowa made the sale and discharge of fireworks legal two years ago.
“We had a pickup truck burned as a result of fireworks a year ago but this is the worst personal injury we have had since fireworks became legal,” Hartman said.
The Muscatine Fire Department and Muscatine Police Department are continuing their investigation into the incident.
A preliminary report indicates that one of the three men allegedly lit a mortar while holding it in his hand and attempted to throw the mortar before it exploded. That man lost his hand in the resulting explosion while a second man suffered injuries to his face, eyes, and ears, and a third man apparently lost several fingers.
Two of the three were transported to Unity Point-Trinity Hospital by Muscatine Fire Department ambulance and one drove himself to the hospital. One of the men was airlifted to Iowa City by helicopter while the other two were transported to Iowa City by Muscatine Fire Department ambulances. All three are expected to recover from their injuries.
A mortar is a paper or HDPE (High Density PolyEthylene) tube containing a shell with a long fuse. The shell has a lift charge on the bottom that helps propel it into the air. Once in the air, the shell explodes open and release stars and other effects that streak the sky with various designs. Most display fireworks are shot from mortars.
“It is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when discharging fireworks as they are all different,” Lieutenant Anthony Kies of the Muscatine Police Department said. “These are very dangerous and this is why the laws and policies are put in place … to ensure everyone's safety.
Many of these accidents are avoidable by simply following the safety directions which are listed on each package Lt Kies said.
The Muscatine Police Department responded to more than 20 fireworks calls after the 10 p.m. deadline for legally discharging fireworks Thursday including several calls concerning the discharge of fireworks on streets, roads, and inside Riverside Park.
According to Muscatine City Ordinance, fireworks can only be legally discharged in celebration of Independence Day on July 3 and July 4 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Muscatine Fire Department was also kept busy with 12 calls throughout the day, but were especially busy around the time of the Muscatine Independence Day parade that the department was unable to participate in this year.
“We had several medical calls, including the East Hill incident, and one fire call,” Hartman said.
Hartman said one of the fire calls came after a passing driver noticed the siding of a house on fire and doused the fire with water as the fire department was being dispatched. The investigation into the cause of that fire continues with fireworks a possible cause.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends that if you have unused, misfired, or “dud” fireworks, residents should follow the following steps:
Completely submerge fireworks in a large bucket of water and soak overnight.
Wrap the completely soaked fireworks in plastic wrap or two plastic bags so they do not dry out.
Place the bagged fireworks in the household trash or take them to your local landfill.
Never put unsoaked fireworks in the garbage. They pose a fire/explosion hazard to people and property.