Homemade new year’s eve firecrackers: “we had the garage blow up in our faces”

A pig’s foot in a sneaker, that looks funny at first – but then suddenly the children don’t find it funny at all. A pyrotechnician explains what to look for when setting off fireworks,

Source: N24/ Lena-Maria Mosel

"The garage blew up in our faces," the 23-year-old says. He remembers only fragments of what happened a year ago in that garage in Weil (Landsberg am Lech district): "I remember almost nothing about that day."The young man, who wishes to remain anonymous, met on the 29th of March. December 2016 with three friends. They wanted to build their own firecrackers.

They were aware of the danger, as the 23-year-old says. "But we could not assess the risk." Just as he was mixing chemicals in a bowl between the thighs, there was a bang. A second explosion followed. Tearing up the bench he was sitting on. The force of the detonation tore the garage door out of its anchorage. The man was in a coma in intensive care for three weeks: severe skin burns and bones protruding from both thighs.

LKA warns against illegal firecrackers

His fate is not an isolated case. More than 70 people were injured by firecrackers and rockets in Bavaria last New Year’s Eve, according to the State Criminal Police Office (LKA). Among them were at least five seriously injured, who are now blind in one eye or deaf in one ear due to the consequences.

Today, the young man can jog and ski again

Despite his severe injuries, the young man from Schwabhausen can jog and ski again. But his experience makes him an admonisher: "Keep your hands off these things. Do not build firecrackers yourself and do not use firecrackers from Poland, the Czech Republic or China."

This is exactly what the LKA warns against a few days before the turn of the year. The firecrackers from neighboring states hold many dangers, according to experts. "Often the fuse burns so quickly that the firecracker explodes while still in your hand," says Jurgen Gust, explosives expert at the LKA. Whole limbs could be torn off in the process.

This is also shown on Thursday by experiments of the officials on a remote, cordoned off area in Garching near Munich. Even in Germany approved and commercially available firecrackers rip a cabbage head apart. "The hand can be gone at the slightest firecracker," says Gust. The problem: Almost all firecrackers from Poland and the Czech Republic are made of plaster at both ends, with black powder in between. "The stronger the packaging, the louder the bang," explains the expert.

How illegal firecrackers get across the border, the police do not know

This may sound tempting for New Year’s Eve, but the plaster does not pulverize. Then plaster shards fly through the air and accelerate up to 300 meters per second. That is one of the most dangerous things about the crackers from Eastern Europe. "The explosion and the splinters also penetrate the undercarriage of a car," warns Gust. His conclusion: "These firecrackers do not belong in the hands of ordinary citizens."

The LKA cannot say how many illegal firecrackers from the Czech Republic and Poland cross the border into Bavaria. On Wednesday alone, however, officers of the federal and state police in the district of Wunsiedel seized a large quantity of prohibited pyrotechnics: Three men aged 23 to 25 had bought more than seven kilograms of fireworks in the Czech Republic.

Who buys illegal firecrackers, the threat of up to three years in prison

The penalties are also intended as a deterrent: anyone who imports illegal firecrackers or makes them themselves faces criminal proceedings for violating the Explosives Act. That could mean three years in prison or a fine, according to the Federal Police. In addition, the destruction of the firecrackers is charged in certain cases.

According to the LKA, many people underestimate one danger – regardless of whether they bought firecrackers illegally, made them themselves or purchased them legally in Germany: The fuse sometimes burns, but the explosion is missing for now. Many accidents happen because people approach the firecracker too early, as the experts of the LKA explain – and immediately provide the proof: During their attempts, two firecrackers from the Czech Republic do not explode – even after 30 minutes.

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