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N.H. Lawmakers Consider Banning Certain Fireworks... Again

Ryan Lessard

Two years after New Hampshire legalized the sale of certain powerful fireworks, lawmakers are considering banning them. This second look was prompted by a pyrotechnic explosion in Pelham last summer that injured eight adults and five children.

On July 3rd last year, an event at the Pappathan residence in Pelham demonstrated that over-the-counter fireworks can be dangerous.

“Even through the smoke I immediately saw how hurt he was head to toe. He was screaming for me and was terrified. I will never forget that image. He had what I kept describing as a hole under his arm, another near his wrist and his foot was mangled.”

That’s Jessica Pappathan describing the injuries her two-year-old son Ben suffered that night.

It’s six months later and the state Fire Marshal’s report remains unreleased, but details of the investigation were aired at a hearing before the House to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Pelham’s Fire Chief James Midgley told lawmakers that 344 reloadable mortar shells were lined up on the deck.

“Another device was lit some 14 feet away, a spinner device, ignited those devices.”

A spark fell on the fuse of a one mortar shell and according to Midgely, it was, basically, BOOM…

“I was heading north on route thirty eight, I literally saw a mushroom cloud. Because all of these 344 devices went off in a split second.”

Midgley asked his representative, Republican Charlene Takesian of Pelham to draft the bill.

It calls for aerial spinners, reloadable shells and parachute devices to be banned in New Hampshire.

All were on the state’s illegal fireworks list until 2011. When lawmakers, with the full support of the fireworks industry, deemed them safe.  

“Fireworks are manufactured and packaged in such a way that they are safe objects.”

Donald Creadore is a lawyer working for the New Hampshire Fireworks Association. He also told lawmakers that these fireworks are popular, with good reason.

“There’s a tactile feel to it. People like to take the mortar to put it into the tube because it gives them some kind of interactivity.”

Creadore estimated that some New Hampshire retailers would lose about $4-5 million every year if these devices are banned. That would cost New Hampshire jobs, and with consumer fireworks now legal in Maine, the industry, Creadore says, would be irreparably harmed.