One man lost a hand and two others were seriously injured after a fireworks incident in Muscatine on the Fourth of July, according to a news release from the Muscatine Fire Department.
Assistant Chief Michael Hartman said the incident, which happened around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, was the most serious in Muscatine since Iowa legalized the sale of fireworks two years ago.
"Someone had a fireworks injury, we ended up transporting two individuals in stable condition to Trinity Muscatine," Hartman said in an interview Friday. "One of those individuals was flown (to a Tier 1 hospital) soon after they arrived, and then later on we did a hospital transfer for two individuals for fireworks injuries."
One of the three men allegedly lit a mortar firework in his hand and it went off before he could throw it, the preliminary investigation found. That man lost a hand, a second man lost several fingers, a third man suffered injuries to his face, eyes and ears.
“It is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when discharging fireworks as they are all different,” Muscatine Police Department Lt. Anthony Kies of the Muscatine Police Department in the release. “These are very dangerous and this is why the laws and policies are put in place … to ensure everyone's safety."
Kies also said fireworks are restricted to those ages 18 or older.
Throughout the day, the Muscatine Police and Fire Departments responded to several fireworks calls, including 20 after the 10 p.m. deadline for legally letting them off, the release said. One fire was doused after a passerby doused the fire with water as the department was being dispatched, while another structure fire is believed to have been caused by the improper disposal of fireworks.
Local alderman calls for referendum on fireworks
After three years of legal fireworks, one lawmaker has had enough.
Muscatine Alderman Kelcey Brackett initially had called for a complete ban on fireworks within Muscatine city limits on his Facebook page; he later updated that to investigating the possibility of a referendum.
"I've been watching since fireworks were made legal in the state of Iowa, and the first year that it happened the amount of usage was just over the top," Brackett said in an interview Friday. "What a lot of people don't take into account is the amount of problems they cause for other people by expressing their own freedom, so they're basically infringing on other people's rights by doing what they feel is their right to do."
While he expected the newness of legal fireworks to wear off after the first year, Brackett said he expected people would follow the rules and understand the rules by this year. Now, it's infringing on other's rights. "If we're talking about everybody's rights, allowing fireworks is significantly infringing on the majority of people in town's rights," he said.
Brackett also pointed out the major injuries suffered by people this year, including the three men taken to an Iowa City hospital after one lost a hand, the other lost several fingers and a third had damage to their eyes, ears and face.
In his role as an Alderman on the City Council, Brackett spends a lot of time walking and driving through town to see if there are things that need to be addressed. "And one of the things that I see when I do is massive amounts of legal fireworks, and unfortunately the cat's out of the bag," he said. Because of the state, Muscatine can't do anything about sales, so the other avenue is working on usage. "I know that will be a difficult task if it goes that direction, but it's a difficult task now."
Brackett says he will research the possibility of a referendum and bring up the issue at the next City Council meeting.