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Pelham fireworks explosion determined accidental

Union Leader Correspondent

February 01. 2013 3:20PM

PELHAM- - A preliminary report by the state Fire Marshall has determined that a July 3 fireworks incident that injured 13 people was an accident.



The investigation concluded that the injured people were on or near a back deck where about 344 unpackaged reloadable mortar shells were stored, according to a press release from the Fire Marshal.



An aerial spinner accidentally landed in the pile of exposed shells sparking an explosion, according to witnesses cited in the release.



The overall case remains under investigation by the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office, the Pelham Police Department and the NH State Fire Marshal's Office.



It was not clear if charges could be brought forward.The accident occurred at annual Independence Day celebration held by Chris and Jeannie Pappathan at their home at 40 Dodge Road. Homeowner Christopher Pappathan, 58, was injured in the blast, along with: Jessica Pappathan, 32, of Derry; Paul Pappathan, 58, of Everett, Mass.; Patrick Foy, 42, of Greenfield; Marcie Foy, 31, of Greenfield; Gary Brunelle, 45, of Londonderry; Daniel Haight, 50, of Pelham; and Jessel Jones, 39, of Islip, N.Y.



Five children were also injured. Ben Bertini, 2 and Tyler Brunelle, 2 were transported to Shriners Hospital along with an 8-month-old, Olivia Foy.



The Pappathan family was unavailable to comment about the report on Friday.



The accident opened discussion on fireworks safety and possible restrictions.



Locally, the Board of Selectmen held public hearings in October to discuss whether the town should regulate fireworks use.



Chairman William McDevitt said the Board felt an obligation to hold the hearings after residents voiced concerns.



"We're all sympathetic to what happened," McDevitt said. "It's about, 'How do we best approach it?'"



Most residents did not seem to be in favor of banning fireworks.



Selectmen also discussed the pros and cons of adopting a permitting process for residential firework displays.




"The majority felt that a permit would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce," McDevitt said.



The Board decided to go in the direction of increased public education and public outreach in partnership with the fire department, McDevitt said.



Some constituents brought their concerns to Rep. Charlene Takesian, R-Pelham and asked her to help draft something that would prevent future accidents such as the one in Pelham.



Takesian is co-sponsoring House Bill 336 with Rep. Brian Rhodes, D-Nashua and Sen. Chuck Morse R-Salem, which would ban reloadable shells like those involved the July accident. Spinners, helicopters, and parachutes would also be banned under the legislation.



The bill also calls for new requirements on retailers to provide safety information about legal fireworks.



The Pappathans are responsible people who have had fireworks displays for many years, Takesian said. She hopes her legislation will raise awareness that fireworks can be dangerous.



She believes the fireworks named in her legislation were banned at some point in the past and later made legal.



House Bill 291 made the fireworks permissible by making all fireworks approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission permissible in New Hampshire, said Rep. Brian Rhodes, who added he was immediately on board with co-sponsoring Takesian's bill.



"I thought it was a common-sense safety bill," he said.


Rhodes said he is not looking to ban all fireworks.




The safety literature requirement is a key component toward his ultimate goal of better education for the consumer. Many retailers already hand the information out but he would like to make it mandatory.



"I don't want this to be buyers beware type of thing," Rhodes said.



Even if a new ban is not passed, Takesian said she would support an amendment requiring safety literature with every sale.



"I think we all agree that at the very minimum there should be dialogue going on between the people buying and the people selling to let people know when they buy these aerial fireworks that they're dangerous and unpredictable," Takesian said.

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