Thursday, December 5, 2013
By CRAIG CROSBY/Kennebec Journal
RICHMOND — A Sabattus man is recovering from what state officials described as the most serious fireworks-related injury since a ban on public use of fireworks in Maine was lifted earlier this year.
Jason Douglass, 34, was injured Saturday when a malfunctioning shell fired and hit him in the head, Sgt. Kenneth Grimes of the state Fire Marshal's Office said Monday.
Douglass was taken to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, where he was treated for injuries to his forehead and an eye.
Douglass' wife, Alison Douglass, said her husband has 17 stitches in his forehead, but an eye doctor Monday determined he suffered no permanent injuries.
"The eye doctor was very pleased," Alison Douglass said. "We're so thankful."
She said her husband works in manufacturing, and she was unsure how much time he would miss from work.
Grimes said Douglass' injury was the most severe reported since state lawmakers in January lifted a decades-old ban against the sale and use of fireworks. The injury came just days before the Fourth of July, the first time in decades consumer fireworks have been legal on the holiday.
Eight fireworks stores have opened across the state this year. Several communities have enacted local ordinances that ban or regulate the use and sale of fireworks.
"There have been other minor injuries," Grimes said. "This is the worst I can remember in the last several years that's happened to a member of the public."
The accident in Richmond occurred around 9:30 p.m. Saturday during a private fireworks show for a birthday party at the Lancaster Road home of Lisa Averill, a family friend of the Douglasses. Jason Douglass ignited a 500-gram cake, a container holding 21 shots that fire into the air.
Grimes said investigators did not know why the shell failed to fire. "It happens from time to time," he said.
Alison Douglass said her husband was trying to ignite the unexpired shell when it went off.
She said it appears something hit her husband in the head, which caused him to turn, before the shell exploded.
"He has gashes in his head, but that had to come from something else because there's not burning with it," she said.
He bought the fireworks from an out-of-state store and had dealt with the explosives before. But he may never do so again.
"We've turned over what he had to the Fire Marshal's Office," Alison Douglass said. "It will be a long time emotionally before we can be around them again. It's still hitting us how badly this could have turned out."
Grimes said it's important to use fireworks according to manufacturers' specifications, which should be provided by local retailers. In the Douglass case, the unexpired shell should have first been soaked in water, he said.
"If they don't go off, you can soak them in water for a day or so and they can be rendered safe," Grimes said.
He said Douglass was eager to provide investigators with information on how the accident occurred.
"He doesn't want to see this happen to anyone else, either," Grimes said.
Alison Douglass said she had never before heard what to do with unexploded fireworks until talking to investigators. "We want people to be safe," she said.
Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org