BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — A Benton Harbor teen who lost much of his left hand to a fireworks accident last year is warning others of the dangers of playing with fireworks.
“I really can’t remember that much” of the incident that cost him his hand, Corey Bland said Wednesday, one year after it happened.
Corey, now 15, said someone threw a firework and it landed in the hood of his shirt. He grabbed it and it exploded. He lost most of his hand, but had he not grabbed the firework, he said, he “probably would be dead.”
“God blessed me,” he added.
His mother, Alice Smith, recalls the day clearly.
“It was the worst call of my life,” she said. “I had a child with two hands and now I don’t. Now I don’t.”
After Michigan legalized more powerful consumer-grade fireworks in 2012, the number of people showing up to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries more than doubled, state figures show. That number was 26 in 2009, 32 in 2010 and 36 in 2011. It was 78 in 2012, around 60 in 2013 and 2014, and 75 last year.
“Be careful. Make sure adults are around — the basic stuff. Stuff I didn’t do,” Corey advised.
He has had to make adjustments after the accident, but said it won’t change his hopes for a successful future.
“I just know I’m grateful to be here. Stuff happens,” he said.
Still, the sound of fireworks startles him sometimes.
“Big ones that say ‘boom,’ it triggers like memories and stuff,” he said.
“We don’t want to see anybody spending Fourth of July in the emergency room,” said Lt. William Smith, the fire prevention specialist with the Grand Rapids Fire Department.
“They can be pretty damaging to the human body,” he added. “Just think of a war injury. … If someone has got one in their hand and it goes off like an M-80.”
Aside from human injuries, fireworks can cause fires. Friday, a grassy area below Belknap Lookout next to I-96 in Grand Rapids caught fire because of a firework. It was contained before reaching any cars or homes. The state is considering a burn and fireworks ban because of dry weather, but so far that hasn’t been announced.
“You got to use common sense for these things,” Lt. Smith said. “A lot of people unfortunately don’t and a lot of injuries and burns can happen.”
Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs offers these safety tips for people planning to set off their own fireworks.
- Only buy state-approved fireworks from authorized retailers that are not packaged in brown paper packaging (those are only for professional use).
- Only use fireworks per their directions on your driveway or pavement 25 feet away from buildings and things that can easily ignite, like grass.
- Don’t attempt to re-light fireworks that did not ignite properly. Wait at least 15 minutes before picking them up and soak them in water.
- Don’t light more than one firework at a time.
- Make sure no pets or people are nearby when lighting fireworks.
- Kids should always have adult supervision when using fireworks — even sparklers.
- Have a water source nearby, like a bucket of water or a garden hose, in case of an emergency.
- Soak fireworks that have been used in water before throwing them away.