Pelham fireworks mishap dampens holiday

The Fourth of July is a time for family fun and recreation, whether it be hosting neighborhood cookouts, lining sidewalks for holiday parades or gathering at dusk for celebratory fireworks displays.

Getting rushed to the hospital isn’t supposed to be on the list.

Yet, every year – despite warnings from fire safety officials and the media – thousands end up being treated in hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-
related injuries, roughly 8,600 in 2010 alone, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

That point was driven home tragically Tuesday night, when six adults and five children were injured – some severely – when fireworks ignited prematurely on the rear deck of the Pappathan family’s Dodge Road home during its annual neighborhood fireworks display in Pelham.

Three children were airlifted by medical helicopters to a Boston hospital, including a 2-year-old boy who was placed in a medically induced coma, according to family members. An 8-month-old girl suffered burns to 10 percent of her body.

Sadly, the Pelham incident wasn’t the only one that resulted in injury – or worse – in New Hampshire and around the nation.

? In Rye, four teens were injured Tuesday night at Wallis Sands State Beach after trying to insert fireworks into a bottle, causing an explosion. One of the teens, all believed to be about 14 years old, was airlifted with serious injuries to Massachusetts General Hospital.

? In Florida, a 24-year-old man suffered serious injuries after a fiberglass tube containing a mortar exploded in his hands. The explosion blew off his thumb and caused serious damage and burns to his hand, arms, stomach and right leg.

? And in Kansas, a 44-year-old man was killed when a firework exploded while he was cleaning up after a city-sponsored fireworks show in Lansing. He was among the crew members responsible for disposing of fireworks that had not discharged during the show.

Given the horrific nature of the Pelham incident, we suspect it will prompt a discussion of laws and regulations that govern the use of fireworks on private property in New Hampshire – and that certainly is reasonable.

Currently, state law permits the consumer use of what are known as Class C fireworks, which includes cone and cylindrical fountains, ground spinners and pyrotechnic wheels, but excludes firecrackers, missiles, bottle rockets and smoke bombs. Federal law bans explosive devices, such as mortar shells, cherry bombs and M-80 salutes, among other items.

State law permits municipalities to impose stricter regulations on the private possession or display of fireworks. Pelham is one of at least 50 New Hampshire communities that do not further restrict either their possession or display, according to a list compiled by the state fire marshal’s office.

In Greater Nashua, Hudson and Nashua are the only communities that do not permit the private use or display of fireworks. In both cases, permits are only issued to professionals, as was the case Wednesday night for the fireworks show at Holman Stadium.

At this point, it’s much too soon to determine whether changes should be made to state or municipal laws that govern fireworks on private property.

Instead, we join with all of you in praying for the good health and recovery of the Pappathan family and friends who were injured in this tragic accident.