An Iowa teenager taped a tube to a football helmet in July 2018 in order to launch fireworks from the top of his head.
The first time, it worked. The second time, the result was catastrophic, according to a new report Wednesday from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The fireworks shell became stuck, exploding a few seconds later while still on top of the young man’s head. He fell to the ground, was hospitalized, and died the next day — one of at least five deaths from fireworks-related injuries in 2018.
Every year, the agency issues a grim report on the number of burns, lacerations, and other nonoccupational fireworks-related injuries in hopes of preventing additional harm. Yet each year, thousands are treated in U.S. emergency departments for the same types of mishaps.
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Last year was no different, with an estimated 9,100 fireworks-related injuries receiving emergency treatment. While that marked a significant one-year decline from an estimated 12,900 injuries in 2017, a long-term statistical analysis suggests that people still are not getting the message. The trend in fireworks injuries over the past 16 years remains stable, the agency said.
Most of the injuries each year occur during the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July.
In a detailed analysis of that period for 2018, the agency found that children younger than age 15 accounted for 36 percent of injuries.
And even devices that are widely perceived as having low firepower can cause serious harm. In the weeks surrounding July 4, 2018, sparklers caused 500 injuries that required emergency treatment while bottle rockets caused 200, the agency said.
Among the reasons for injury: lighting fireworks that were held in someone’s hand, pointing lit fireworks at a person, and setting off fireworks under the influence of alcohol, the agency said. In some cases, the devices tipped over during operation or ignited earlier than expected. There is a reason those instructions say to set fireworks on the ground before lighting them and, once they are lit, to stay far away.
While the commission’s report did not reveal the name of the Iowa man, local news accounts at the time identified him as Coltin Carolus, 18.
Carolus was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, then transferred to a larger medical center. The day after the accident, he was removed from life support.