I have been doing professional fireworks shows for 17 years, the last 6 of which have been done as a primary operator. After all of those years and about 50 shows, on July 4th my ticket finally came due.
Just before the mid-point of a show, a 5 inch diameter shell exploded in its mortar tube, exploding that tube and transforming the wood rack it was in to shrapnel. The end result was a number of stitches in my left hand, which makes typing this blog a pain in the _____.
There will be a Dr. Rent Radio Show tonight, but with this recent development, it will not be a new show. I will take one of my previously recorded shows and replay it. Which one? I don’t honestly know. I guess we will all be surprised… LOL.
Many who have seen my injuries to my hand, and the damage to the launching racks tell me how lucky I am that I only have a few cut fingers. I dont see that as lucky at all. Proper training, proper safety gear, and years of experience helped ensure that any injuries were minor, and the show continuued on.
In fact, I was unlucky. To have a shell explode in a tube because of a defective shell and not operator error is unlucky. To have a 5 inch shell explode, the largest we launch in non-steel mortars is also not lucky. A 3″ or 4″ would have been less severe. To have it be a middle tube in a rack instead of and end tube was unlucky. An end tube would have sent most of its force left or right, not toward the crew like a middle blow out.
The fact is, the worst case scenario happened, that is not lucky at all. But because proper procedures were used in lighting the shell, proper safety equipment was being worn by all members of the crew, and fire and emt crews were standing by, an unlucky incident is all it turned out to be.
THIS is why the big stuff should be left to the experts. Without proper safety procedures or safety gear, this could have been a lethal incident, and luck would have nothing to do with it.