San Jose

Man recounts serious injury from illegal July Fourth fireworks in San Jose

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Despite multiple pleas and warnings from firefighters, police and even doctors, illegal fireworks were rampant once again in every corner of the Bay Area last week.

In one case, a man and his wife who didn’t want to give their names said they were visiting friends in San Jose’s Alviso neighborhood over the holiday weekend when they were burned by a wayward mortar during an illegal fireworks display.

After dinner on the Fourth of July, people were lighting fireworks in the street, the man said, but as the explosions started to get out of control, he said he and his wife decided to walk away. Then the tower holding illegal mortars tipped over and blasted fireworks directly at them.

"How fast it happened, it’s just unbelievable," the man said from his hospital bed at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. "In one second, that was it. We were on the floor, burned. I just looked at my wife, her skin was falling from her legs."

The man said if the tubes had fallen in the other direction, there could have been dozens injured. Either way, he said he was stunned by the disregard for safety.

"When we asked to call 911, they said, 'No, we don’t call 911 here.' So we called 911 directly to get them to show up, and they came with an ambulance," the man said.

He suffered second-degree burns.

Dr. Clifford Sheckter, who leads the burn unit at Valley Medical, said it’s been one of the worst years he’s seen for fireworks injuries.

"These are fire mixed with blast injuries, so almost like a wartime injury," Sheckter said. "We have a child who has lost some fingers and is being cared for by our reconstructive hand team right now. We got a call for a patient who literally blew off testicles from a mortar going off in his lap. I would hope these types of consequences help people understand the gravity of what’s going on."

The man injured in Aviso will be in the hospital for 10 to 14 more days. He said he's got a very simple message for those who set off or gather to watch illegal fireworks displays.

"Just don’t go. Just watch these things on TV or in a professional place where it’s safe and well organized," he said. "These guys in the street, they have no idea what they’re doing."

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