Mom fears future after son loses hand to firework

Corey Bland, recovering in the hospital (June 2, 2015)

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — A Benton Harbor mother says she hopes the fireworks accident that cost her son most of his left hand serves as a warning to other families.

Corey Bland, 14, was injured on Tuesday afternoon when a homemade firework exploded in his hand in the 600 block of Pavone Street.

According to his mother, Alice Smith, Corey says another person threw a lit firework to him, he caught it, and it exploded. She says he didn’t realize the firework was live.

“We have to deal with this for the rest of our life,” said Smith in an interview with 24 Hour News 8 outside of the Kalamazoo hospital where her son is recovering. “I don’t want it to happen to no one else’s child.”

Smith said only Corey’s thumb remains on his left hand. The blast has also caused him problems with hearing.

Thursday afternoon he was scheduled to have his second surgery since the incident. More are likely to follow.

The reality of what happened is still setting in for Corey, Smith said. Thursday morning he woke up in a “panic.”

“‘Mama I don’t want to live no more. I don’t want to live. This pain hurtin’ me. I just want to die. I just want to die,’” his mother said describing what Corey told her. “My baby shouldn’t have to feel like that.”

Corey was scheduled to be at track practice for school when the fireworks incident happened. Smith said he’d wandered away from where he was supposed to be.

Now she says she’s preparing to help him through recovery both mentally and physically.

“All he keep saying is ‘mama,’” Smith said.

Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety officials are investigating the incident. It is not yet clear whether anyone will face charges.

Part of the struggle in investigating the case is that Corey won’t tell police where the firework came from, Smith said.

Police described the explosive as a homemade firework. Smith said her son’s experience should serve as a lesson — that parents should supervise children using fireworks.

“I wouldn’t care if its a sparkler,” Smith said. “Ya’ll should be with them at all times.”

Witnesses to the incident said they were still coping with what they saw.

“It was real loud. It was heard blocks and blocks over,” said Ernest Lee, who rushed to help the victim after the explosion.

He says Corey was clearly in pain but did not scream or panic after the explosion.

“He was taking it better than I could,” Lee said. “I couldn’t hardly stomach it.”

Lee used his belt as a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding. A move that Corey’s mom says likely saved his life.

“Had he not wrapped that belt around his hand. He would’ve died,” Smith said. “He’d have lost all his blood.”

“He’s a strong little guy,” said Mark Brown who also witnessed the incident. “He didn’t shed one tear.”

Brown says the boy was conscious and alert after the blast and seemed to think he was going to die.

“He thought he was dead,” Brown said. “That’s what he said. He said, ‘RIP to me.’”

Smith says she recognizes the situation could have ended worse. Her advice to parents is simple as the Fourth of July approaches and people start to enjoy fireworks for the holiday.

“Any child that’s out there dealing with fireworks, they shouldn’t,” Smith said. “My baby have to wake up every day … and basically deal with the fact that his hand — he’ll never be the same.”

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