ST. PETERSBURG — A man went to the hospital after fireworks accidentally ignited his car at Gandy Beach late Thursday, destroying the vehicle.
A man and woman came to the beach about 10 p.m. with a large plastic container of fireworks collected from a stint working at a fireworks stand earlier this month.
"They wanted to celebrate their own Fourth of July because they were working," said Lt. Joel Granata, St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue.
Their makeup celebration irritated another group of people also on the beach, he said. The groups started bickering, and the pair decided to leave.
They picked up the leftover fuses and debris, he said, lumping them into the container with unlit flammables in their 1991 Lexus LS 400.
The explosions started in the car as they pulled away. The old fireworks apparently set off the unused ones, Granata said.
The fireworks blew out the back window and the sunroof — up to 30 feet — before burning the car. The vehicle was a total loss, according to St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue.
The man burned himself as he tried grabbing the keys from the ignition from the outside, Granata said. He had burns across 10 percent of his body and was treated at the scene before he was taken to Tampa General Hospital in good condition.
Early reports indicated the fire started when someone in the backseat of the vehicle apparently tried hurling a mortar at a group of people nearby. Granata said the investigation revealed that not to be the case.
A witness told Bay News 9 the mortar was meant to hit him. "I just heard it explode in there and a few more fireworks went off in the car," said Brandon Carroll, "and it just went up in flames."
Granata did not have the identities of the people who set off the fireworks.
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Times Staff Writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report