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CPSC Issues Warning On Illegal Fireworks

Release Date: July 02, 1985

The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning today to consumers on the dangers of purchasing, transporting, and using illegal fireworks. This warning came in the wake of the Commission's investigation of an incident where two Nebraska men were injured, one of them critically, when several illegal fireworks devices exploded in a pick-up truck in which they were traveling.

The explosion is believed to have been triggered when a device commonly known as an M-1000 firecracker, was accidentally ignited in or near the critically injured passenger's lap possibly by a burning cigarette. The device exploded and detonated several other M-1000's in the vehicle. The 29 year old passenger suffered severe burns and other injuries in the groin area, two ruptured ear drums, a fractured neck, and 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 25 percent of his face and body. He remains in a burl hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

The 30 year old driver of the vehicle received 2nd degree burns to the right side of his face and body and a ruptured ear drum. The truck in which the two men were traveling was completely demolished by the force of the explosion and fire. The remains of two unexploded M-1000 devices and about 100 smaller unexploded M-80's and M-100's were found strewn throughout the accident site by local Sheriff's officials.

The illegal fireworks devices had been purchased earlier ir I&' day by the two men from a roadside fireworks stand in or near Rock Port, Missouri and were being transported into the state of Nebraska, about 20 miles north of Rock Port when the explosion occurred.

These devices along with other Class B fireworks containing more than 50 milligrams of powder which are intended to produce an audible report have been banned by the CPSC because of the high risk of serious injury associated with their use. Many state and local jurisdictions throughout the country also have passed laws which make it illegal to sell, purchase, or use such devices.

Despite these wide-ranging prohibitions, the sale and use of Class B fireworks such as cherry bombs, silver salutes, M-80's or ash cans, M-100's, M-1000's and other large exploding devices continue to be popular. Commission estimates show that during 1984, nearly 9,900 persons were treated in hospital emergency rooms as a result of injure associated with all types of fireworks, Many of the more serious injuries may be attributed to the use of illegal Class B or home made fireworks. In addition, there were seven known fireworks related deaths in 1984.

Concerned that 57 percent of fireworks accident victims are under 15 years old while 81 percent are under 25, CPSC cautions parents to prohibit children from purchasing and using illegal Class B fireworks and to closely supervise the use of legal fireworks to consumers.

The CPSC has recently stepped up its efforts to crack down on the sale of illegal Class B fireworks to consumers. Working on behalf of the CPSC, The U.S. Attorney for The Western District of Missouri recently filed a complaint to enjoin B & L Fireworks, Rock Port, Missouri, its proprietors Larry Flanagan and Burt Smith, and three other individuals: William J. Elmore, of Kincaid, Illinois, Karen L. Mages of Fairfax, Missouri and Neil E. Mobley of Rock Port, Missouri from further receipt and sale of banned fireworks devices. Each individual has entered into a consent decree agreeing not to sell illegal fireworks devices. Future violations of the consent agreements signed by the defendants could result in a contempt of court action. The action against B & L Fireworks resulted from undercover surveillance conducted by the Commission during last year's Fourth of July season.

The Commission has increased its undercover surveillance for the 1985 season. Purchases of illegal fireworks by CPSC investigators over the past weekend resulted in the confiscation by local officials of nearly 2,000 illegal M-80's in Nowadays County, Missouri and approximately 3,000 M-80's in Atchison County, Missouri. Another undercover buys in Worth County, Missouri by CPSC investigators resulted in criminal charges being filed by local enforcement authorities against two men who could receive jail sentences from 2% to 7 years and $5,000 in fines, or both, if convicted.

In a separate development, CPSC announced that the U.S. Attorney for The Eastern District of Pennsylvania is filing contempt charges on behalf of the CPSC against J.P. Waltenbaugh d.b.a. Liberty Industries formerly of Quakertown, Pennsylvania and now located in Middlebury Center, Pennsylvania for violations of a consent agreement. Waltenbaugh had agreed not to sell components that could be used to make banned fireworks. Undercover orders placed by the Commission resulted in the sale of chemicals and components which could be used at home to make illegal M-80's and M-100's similar to those which were the subject of the recent Missouri actions. The Commission has charged the firm with violation the consent decree on at least 20 different occasions since the agreement was signed.

The Commission cautions consumers against the purchase and use of illegal Class B fireworks devices and the mail order kits and components for making such devices. If fireworks are used to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, only legal Class C fireworks should be used. Legal fireworks have the name and address of the manufacturer or importer on the label along with important directions for safe storage and use of the devices. They also must be made to comply with certain safety and performance requirements established by the Commission to reduce the potential for serious injuries.

Anyone suspected of selling illegal Class B fireworks should be reported to local police or fire officials. Further information on the safe use of fireworks may be obtained by calling the Commission's toll free HOTLINE at 800-638-CPSC. A teletypewriter number for the hearing- impaired is (301) 595-7054.

Release Number
85-034

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.

Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly-announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission.

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