Sunday, December 10, 2017
Public safety

Firework blows up in Riverview man's hands, causing severe injuries

Fireworks exploding unexpectedly blew off a Riverview man's thumb and abruptly ended a Pasco County show when shrapnel struck a man helping put on the display.

The first incident happened at a party at 4105 W Fairview Heights. A few friends had gathered outside the house near MacDill Air Force Base. They had fireworks.

About 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Matthew Lewandowski, 24, loaded a firework mortar into a fiberglass tube. He lit the fuse and held the tube upright, expecting it to rocket away.

But it exploded in his hands, Tampa police say, blowing off his left thumb, severely damaging that hand and burning his arms, stomach and right leg.

"All we heard was, 'Call 911, call 911,' " a neighbor who lives across the street, Shirley Igbuhay, told Bay News 9. "And then he started bleeding. And we saw his hand. It was like, dangling."

Lewandowski was taken to Tampa General Hospital for reconstructive surgery. Still, he might lose his left thumb and ring finger, his father said Wednesday afternoon.

A Tampa police spokesman said that no citations or charges had been filed against Lewandowski for the fireworks.

The second incident happened at a fireworks show capping a day of celebrations at the Pasco County Fairgrounds.

The show near Dade City just started when it suddenly stopped. The sound of sirens filled the air instead.

A mortar had blown up right after clearing its launch tube, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said. A 49-year-old man who works for the fireworks company suffered burns and shrapnel wounds to his face and hands, the Sheriff's Office said.

Investigators said his injuries did not appear to be life-threatening. His name was not released Wednesday night.

The show was canceled but was expected to go on tonight.

Times staff writers Robbyn Mitchell, Joey Knight and Will Hobson contributed to this report.

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