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Reloadable mortar similar to one in 2012 Pelham accident blamed for serious fireworks injury Friday

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 06. 2014 8:06PM

PELHAM — State fire investigators say the same type of fireworks behind a 2012 incident that left 13 people injured in Pelham were involved in an accident in the same community Friday that left a 24-year-old man severely injured.

According to Pelham fire officials, crews were called to 3 Indian Valley Road on Friday at 7:14 p.m. after a mishap involving fireworks injured two adults. One of the victims, a 24-year-old man, suffered what officials termed a “severe hand injury” and was transported to a local hospital and then to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for emergency surgery.

Fire officials say a mortar shell firework exploded inside a launching tube while the man was reloading it during a consumer fireworks display Friday night.

Fire officials provided no details on the man’s condition or identity Sunday afternoon. No details were provided on the second adult also injured during the mishap.

On Sunday, Christopher Wyman, an investigator with the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office, said an investigation by his office into the accident showed the explosion involved a consumer firework known as a reloadable mortar.

Reloadable mortars were also blamed for an explosion at a home at 40 Dodge Road in Pelham in 2012 that injured 13 people — ranging from age 8 months to 58 years old — after fireworks stored on a deck caught fire. A two-year-old boy was so badly injured, doctors needed to induce a coma for nearly a week.

“These devices require the consumer to be part of the final assembly before use, and if done incorrectly, can cause significant injury or even death,” said Pelham Fire Chief James Midgley.

Reloadable mortars are considered more dangerous than one-time use mortars, according to Wyman, because a person must stand over and reload a tube when using them. Cardboard from the tube can degrade after multiple firings, with embers dropping off and lighting the charge prematurely — causing an explosion in close proximity to the user’s hands and fingers.

Reloadable mortar fireworks were made legal in New Hampshire in 2011. Following the 2012 incident in Pelham, several attempts have been made in the legislature to ban them in the Granite State. The first attempt was a bill in the House that would have re-instated language from a pre-2011 statute that listed them as banned. That effort died in the House after a successful lobbying effort by the fireworks industry. An attempt was made to bring back a state-level fireworks review board, but that effort was killed in the Senate.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently reported that approximately 11,400 injuries were caused by consumer fireworks in 2013. The majority of those injuries occurred during a 30-day period surrounding the Fourth of July.

State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan stated in a release that consumers need to be careful if they choose to use “permissible” consumer fireworks as part of any celebrations.

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