AUBURN, Wash. — With many Fourth of July shows canceled during the pandemic, safety officials worry there could be a rise in fireworks accidents during amateur displays.
This past Friday, a Washington man nearly lost his hand while lighting fireworks with friends.
“It blew, and I just saw everything orange and white, and I actually thought I died for a minute while I was in there,” victim Angel Lopez said.
Lopez, 19, was left with just his pinky and thumb when a firework exploded in his right hand. He also received burns on his left hand, arm and torso.
“I remember the very first thing I said, out loud, was I cannot believe this happened to me. I held my arm above my head and said I just blew my hand off, can someone call 911,” Lopez said.
Lopez and his friends were setting off fireworks near the Muckleshoot Fireworks Mall and Firecracker Alley in Auburn last Friday, where it’s legal to discharge on tribal land. When they ran out, someone in the crowd gave them another firework. Lopez thought it was a ground smoke device and was surprised when it blew up in his hand.
“I thought I had at least 4 or 5 seconds for the fuse to burn. I was going to toss it, because I thought it was one of the smoke grenades that you just toss it and it smokes and crackles,” Lopez said.
Lopez, his friends and the person who gave them the device did not expect the sudden combustion. Lopez hopes others can learn from his accident.
“Just be careful, and don’t take any fireworks from anybody unless you bought it from the stand. They are dangerous, they explode, they can take off fingers, they can take off hands, so I would say be extremely careful,” Lopez said.
While this was a traumatic experience, Lopez is not scared of setting off fireworks. He plans to do it again once he recovers.
“Next year, I would like to light some more, but I am not going to get past bottle rockets or sparklers,” Lopez said. “I am glad that I only lost three fingers, and not my whole hand, and it could have been a lot worse, and I am thankful for that.”