TAMPA, FLORIDA — A teen was recently killed in what should’ve been a fun experience. After the explosive ignited, the teen basically suffered a mortar-shell to the chest.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that, on July 5, 16-year-old Joseph Matthew King was enjoying firework festivities like many other Floridians. The source says he eventually used a mortar-style firework that was supposed to launch a shell from the ground to the sky — exploding safely away from any residents.
ON THE CONTRARY
“But nothing went by the book Thursday,” Tampa Bay Times reports. On the 4200 block of East Osborne Avenue, around 10:55 p.m., King lit the fuse.
However, it wasn’t on the ground as suggested or instructed. Instead — and as many young people often do — King held the launching tube in his hand.
NOTE: This wasn’t a regular “Roman candle” type of firework.
Upon ignition, the projectile went the wrong direction and exploded out the bottom of the tube, penetrating King’s chest — a statement coming from the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Unfortunately for the teen, shrapnel lined his heart and lung from the explosion, according to the report. Someone called 911, and witnesses tended to the teen’s wounds until emergency help arrived.
The source mentions that King wasn’t breathing when paramedics arrived. Shortly after the incident, King soon died an hour later at Tampa General Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 11:55 p.m.
The source indicates that it’s unclear how and where King got this particular firework. Reportedly, it’s illegal in the State of Florida.
Yet, via a law loophole, they’re widely available to consumers as long as they prove they’re at least 18 year of age, says the source — bringing to question, again, how the teen obtained the product.
HOW IT BACKFIRED
A Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty said authorities don’t expect to file charges in the case: “It was a tragic accident and there’s no one to charge.”
Bill Weimer, vice-president of Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks, says the company — although not the one who manufactured the fatal product — is interested in better understanding what happened with Joseph King, so such issues less likely occur in the future.
According to Hegarty, the firework had markings which read “Pyro Shells.” Yet, he wasn’t sure whether it was the brand or manufacturer. The Tampa Bay Times reports the vice president’s product knowledge as follows.
Weimer explained, mortar-style fireworks contain a shell with two charges: a ‘thrust’ charge to propel the shell out of the tube and a second ‘burst’ charge to open the shell and ignite the ‘stars’ inside that burn and produce the colors and sounds, Weimer said. Single-shot pre-loaded tubes are designed to be lit once for a single detonation and discarded. Reloadable tubes come with multiple shells that consumers load themselves.”
“Weimer said it’s possible King had a reloadable tube, and he or someone else loaded the shell upside down,” the source continues. “That could explain why the projectile came shooting out of the bottom of the tube.”
“But Weimer said a shell also could come from a manufacturer loaded with too much explosive powder, causing it to burst through the bottom of the tube with enough force to cause the type of trauma outlined in the medical examiner report.”
Weimer continues by saying King’s death — though tragic —reinforces the importance of following the products’ directions carefully.
The source states that mortar tubes should be fired from the ground and preferably stabilized. Likewise, long fuses would give the user ample time to get to a safe distance before the round fires.
“Holding it close to your body could be lethal, and in this case it was,” Weimer notes.
Reportedly, King’s family created a GoFundMe account to help pay for Joseph’s funeral expenses. The source says he would’ve been a junior at Middleton High School this fall. The page mentions as follows.
“Joseph had high expectations of graduating and looking forward to going to college. He was loved by many and had a magical energy about himself that drew people to him.”
All in all, this was a horrible incident that shouldn’t have happened. Our condolences go out to the King family in this time of mourning.
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