Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Killing a Character with Fireworks Falling From the Sky

My character is at a commercial fireworks display. Can a firework fall from the sky and kill him?

Burns, bruises, blast injuries—all well-known problems associated with fireworks. But what about the big displays, the massive showers of multicolored sparks in the night sky at New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July? Do they ever fall from the sky?

Yes. Yes, they can, and they do. These accidents occur with commercial fireworks—large and loaded, and restricted to trained and licensed pyrotechnics experts.

An aerial shell—basically a mortar—is loaded with multiple clay balls, each containing chemicals that ignite in color. The shell is launched, and the contents ignite in a desired order. The burning chemicals give the color, while the packaging controls the timing of the explosion. This gives rise to the fancy displays typical for Fourth of July.

A launched shell that does not explode—a “dud”—can drop from the sky. They can be heavy enough to cause serious injury from the weight, in addition to burns and blast injuries if the shell ignites close to people. An unlaunched shell that explodes on the ground is dangerous--there are reports of decapitation resulting from bending over a shell as it goes off.

Although rare compared to more typical home fireworks injuries, there are multiple reports of accidents caused by commercial fireworks displays.

Questions? Comments?
~*~
Kelly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it.

Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous.
Find her fiction at www.kellywhitley.com.
Blog: www.kellywhitleybooks.blogspot.com



16 comments:

  1. How interesting. Thanks for sharing, I hadn't thought of death by Fireworks. I know the idiots that fire guns into the air can cause death. The bullet comes back to earth at the same speed. And it can kill or wound.

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    1. Yep. A similar principle--just a bigger object.

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  2. Very interesting. Happy New Year, Kelly.

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    1. Happy New Year, Marian! Thanks for reading.

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  3. We get gunfire, too. One year a woman was killed by a bullet returning to earth and it was actually traced to a person a few blocks from her house who had fired onto the air standing in his back yard (in the middle of the city--what was this brainiac thinking?). The holiday flash'n'bangs around here can get intense and I'm usually inside trying to explain to the animals that it isn't the end of the world. I've read about displays going wrong and injuring the fireworks crew. I never, ever, considered an errant fireworks shell. Killed off by fireworks, that could be played for gallows humor.

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    1. I can see it as a poetic justice plot mechanism. Maybe in a short story or flash fiction.

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  4. Interesting post. I'd heard of people being injured due to fireworks mishaps, but never dying due to them.

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  5. Great post! I'm not sure if anyone can get killed per se, from the fireworks. I've been VERY close to a fireworks display (approximately 30 yards) and the floating debris did settle on some of us but it was mainly sparks and bits of burning paper that the explosive was wrapped in. Maybe contact someone in the field (via the internet, such a wonderful invention) and find out. However, who's to say that something else was inserted into the firework before ignition, perhaps arrows which would create deadly projectiles upon explosion?? Just a thought.

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    1. Thanks, Pat.
      I did do in-depth research and an interview for this post. :~D

      Don't know about the arrows...if they didn't burn, they might fire everywhere. I'll have to ask my expert what he thinks!

      Cheers, Kelly

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  6. Hmmm. Wonder how the fireworks technician could work it out so s/he'd murder the right person. Great way to kill someone off if we could work that out!

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    1. I'd think getting someone to lean over a dud would work. Otherwise, a shell falling from the sky (ie, it launched, but none of the clay balls launched and exploded) could land anywhere--would be anyone's guess!

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  7. Not sure how to post a question, but here's mine: My character is 70ish, in a car accident, broken bones, has a stroke, is in a coma. The doctor's do a tracheotomy and he's breathing on a vent. Doctors advise and family agrees to remove the tube. Man breaths without the tube. What would happen next that could cause a decision to be made to stop food and nutrition? Is that done automatically when the vent is removed? Is it possible or even slightly miraculous to come back after the nutriton and hydration is stopped? Holly

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    1. Hello, Holly.
      --A patient can be taken off a vent and breathe on his own. Not uncommon.
      Stopping nutrition is a hot button issue--witness Terry Schiavo. Not on a vent, severe brain damage, in a vegetative state. She went like that for years, until the case finally wended its way to a high court. Their decision stated that nutrition could be withheld.
      Quality of life is the main issue. If your guy isn't brain dead, it may be difficult to get the physicians to agree to stop nutrition. Most would insist on hydration at the very least.
      It's possible to come back, but unlikely. Stopping nutrition and/or hydration makes it less likely--maybe not in the miraculous range, but certainly outside what'd be expected.
      Cheers, Kelly

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  8. Great blog, maybe make an appointment to meet said victim then deliberately set off fireworks near the meeting area, just point one of the fireworks towards the site. I can see it on CSI.

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    1. That could work.
      They're pretty dangerous unless they go up in the air and detonate as planned!
      Yes, I can see CSI having a case like that!
      Cheers, Kelly

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