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Experts Warn About Fireworks Injuries After Blue Jackets Player’s Death

Some people may think fireworks are safe because they can buy them legally, said Jennifer Walker of University Hospitals. [ZikG / Shutterstock]
Some people may think fireworks are safe because they can buy them legally, said Jennifer Walker of University Hospitals. [ZikG / Shutterstock]

Columbus Blue Jackets goalkeeper Matiss Kivlenieks died this weekend due to injuries sustained from a fireworks accident.

But the end of Independence Day weekend doesn’t mean an end to fireworks injuries and deaths, according to MetroHealth’s Burn Program Coordinator Andrew Neading.

“A lot of people out there will be celebrating the Fourth of July next weekend, and really throughout the summer,” Neading said. “It’s not limited to just the holiday.”

Fireworks injuries typically start around Memorial Day weekend and end around Labor Day, Neading said.

According to emergency responders and witnesses at the party, Kivlenieks was not the one lighting the fireworks.

That means you never know when something can go wrong, said Jennifer Walker, manager of injury prevention at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

“They’re unpredictable, they’re explosives,” she said. “There are some safer ways to use them, but in terms of truly being safe, our recommendation is to not have individuals setting off fireworks."

Neading sees people delay seeking treatment because they don’t want to get in trouble or because their injuries become more painful as time continues.

“Pain, inflammation, and really the degree of burn injury sets in at about 24-48 hours after the initial burn injury, so it’s a day or two later that pain is usually the highest,” he said. “Sometimes that’s a trigger for a patient to come in, because they’re in such a tremendous amount of pain they then seek medical treatment.”

Alcohol is often a contributing factor, so Walker recommends drinking responsibly and monitoring children around fireworks.

“The number one way to be safe is to just leave it to the experts and just go to a professional show,” she said.

Most injuries are to the hands and fingers, Walker said, and even a small firework like a sparkler can cause serious damage.

“Sparklers are one that everyone thinks are safe and fun, but they burn at really high temperatures, I’ve read anything from 1,200-2,000 degrees (Fahrenheit),” Walker said.

A recent Consumer Product Safety Commission report found a 50 percent increase in fireworks-related deaths and injuries in 2020 compared to 2019, possibly due to more people lighting off their own fireworks due to COVID-19 cancellations of professional fireworks shows.

It's currently illegal to light fireworks in Ohio, but a recent bill aims to change that to allow Ohioans to light off fireworks on certain holidays. 

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158