A DROMORE grandmother was left deafened in one ear and in shock after a firework exploded, but more alarming was the fact her 10-year-old grandson was holding the device at the time.
In the midst of the panic the young boy was rushed to the Ulster Hospital, where the full extent of his injuries became apparent - he had lost the four fingers of his right hand.
Speaking about events of that harrowing night three years ago the Dromore woman, who did not wish to be named, hopes it will be a reminder to everyone in the run-up to Halloween to take care with fireworks.
Many accidents result from use of illegal fireworks, however even those purchased legally can be dangerous if misused, as this case demonstrates.
The children involved found information on the internet detailing how to adapt sparklers to achieve maximum impact.
They did not realise that what they were creating was a volatile and extremely dangerous combination, the bang from which could be heard several streets away.
Statistics released by the Health, Social Services and Public Safety on firework injuries, show that the majority of these accidents happen to young men under the age of 18.
Dr Alistair Brown, Consultant plastic surgeon in the Ulster Hospital has treated as many as 12 teenagers involved in firework accidents. These serious injuries often result in the loss of parts of their hands and “this impacts on their life” he warns.
And indeed there were many challenges for the Dromore boy to deal with. Simple tasks such as zipping a coat now required the assistance of his school teacher each day and he had to learn to write again with his left hand. His grandmother said, “His classmates were wonderful and rallied round to help him, but things like tying laces and cutting meat are still impossible.”
More is now being done to warn people of the dangers of fireworks. The Northern Ireland Firework Injuries report of 2010 shows an overall fall in the number of accidents since 1996, the year that legislation was passed allowing the sale of fireworks in Northern Ireland. Injuries in the last year however, have risen slightly with 47 persons reporting to an emergency care department – that’s 17 more than the previous year.
Armagh and Banbridge Area Commander, Chief Inspector Ken Mawhinney is appealing for parents and community leaders to assist in making this year’s festivities safe and fun.
He said, “I would ask parents to talk to their children and explain to them how dangerous fireworks can be and how easily someone can get injured if they are not handled properly.”
Individuals are also being urged to remember that fireworks contain explosive, flammable substances, which can cause serious injury or damage to property.
The devastating injuries to the young Dromore boy haven’t subdued his spirit too much though – he still enjoys fireworks, is a keen rugby player and despite his disability, is always quick to help his grandmother carry her shopping into the house.