Lying in bed tonight, 7th November 2015 listening to the fireworks going off for the third night in a row I can’t help but remember responding to one of the usual injured by a firework incidents that I seemed to attend every bonfire night, weekend, week… It seems to last longer every year.
I was the Duty Fire Investigation Officer for the West Midlands and was called to an incident in a yard in the Black Country, close to Wolverhampton. I had been finishing off the investigation into a house fire about a mile away when I was informed of this latest job.
I arrived at the scene to find a Fire Engine and a Police car parked outside a scrapyard/vehicle recovery yard/recycle centre. There was the remains of a bonfire which had been well and truly put out by the fire crew, and about 10m away a pile of discarded blood soaked bandages.
A Police Officer informed me that a Firework had hit the man in the head causing a horrific injury. The man had died at hospital
Examination of the fireworks that had been set off seemed to indicate that, although people had bee stood well within the 25 m safety range everything else was in place to use them safely. All of the big box 100+ fountains were angled away from the area the small crowd of the family and friends of the workers had been standing. There was no evidence of any firework carcasses anywhere in the yard, except a few empty tubes of Roman candles nailed onto timber frames.
Mooching around the yard, just beyond where the man had fallen I found a small piece of copper pipe. The pipe had body tissue and blood on the outside but also inside the tube. Recovering, bagging-and-tagging the pipe so as to enter it into evidence I returned to the soggy remains of the bonfire and started to drag it out. Using a drag hook to pull the debris into a manageable area to examine it. When I earlier mentioned the fire was extinguished and a soggy mess what I didn’t mention was it was about nine metres square and about a metre high.
As I started to drag it out I found the remains of a fridge from a caravan. The back of the fridge had the usual sealed pressurised refrigeration system. The compressor and condenser were still in place however part of the exchanger coil had ripped apart. The missing pice was a “perfect physical fit” for the blood covered one I had found close to where the man fell.
The fridge had been thrown on the fire. The heat had expanded the gases in the refrigeration system. Eventually the weak point gave way violently and a piece of the exchanger coil, the piece of copper tubing was shot with some velocity out of the bonfire. It speared the unfortunate man in the eye, passed through his Brain, excited his head via the back of the skull and fell to the ground. In front of his friends and family
Everybody was convinced he had been hit by a fire work. Yet in there own way everybody had made the ad-hoc display as safe as possible
Somebody just made the mistake of throwing a fridge on the fire
The Post Mortem and scientific tests on the traces of soft tissue on the remains of the pipe confirmed it was that which caused the fatal injury.
Be careful on these nights. Booze, fireworks-which are mini explosive devices, and fire are not a good mix.
Respect the emergency service people that are out there looking after you. When you need them. You really need them!!!!!