Public Safety

Iowa teenager dies from fireworks injuries

Believed the first in Iowa since fireworks legalized

Coltin Carolus (Photo from Facebook)
Coltin Carolus (Photo from Facebook)

An Eastern Iowa teenager gravely wounded over the weekend while shooting off fireworks with friends has become what authorities believe is the first person killed by the consumer explosives in the state since the Iowa Legislature legalized them last year.

Bremer County sheriff’s deputies said Coltin Carolus, 18, was injured Saturday while discharging fireworks in Waverly. Medics with Waverly Ambulance Service transported him to Waverly Hospital, but he was then transferred to Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, where he was put on life support, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was removed from life support at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, and his organs were donated, according to report.

“Since it became legal last year, this is the first time we’ve heard of a fireworks fatality itself,” Iowa Fire Marshal Dan Wood said Monday. “We’ve had some hand injuries and face injuries, but this is the first death we’ve heard of.”

Even from a national perspective, a fireworks death is highly unusual. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports an average of seven or eight fireworks death a year across the county.

Sheriff Dan Pickett declined to give many details about the incident.

“If fireworks are set off correctly, ignited correctly, and they do what they are supposed, usually they go off without a hitch. But if they are not set off correctly and by the guidelines, accidents can happen easily,” the sheriff said.

“It wasn’t a stabilized place that it was lit from,” he said.

Pickett said people at the house had set off fireworks in a similar fashion without injuries earlier that evening.

“The fireworks that were used were basically supposed to go upward when it is lit, and this one, for some unknown reason, didn’t go up. It went downward, and that’s what, in turn, caused the injury,” Pickett said.

He said it was a larger firework than those previously ignited.

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Until now, consumer fireworks have been responsible only for wounds and fires in Iowa, although some of them serious.

In Cedar Rapids — where private displays were outlawed this Fourth — a 19-year-old setting off a firecracker nonetheless saw it blow up in his hand last month, causing injuries that police said included “the loss of several fingers.” And Sunday, a fire believed caused by fireworks destroyed a garage and the Honda inside for an estimated $30,000 loss.

A report released last month by the Consumer Product Safety Committee said there is an average of seven fireworks deaths a year in the county, but that increased to eight for 2017.

According to the commission, there were 12,900 fireworks-related emergency room visits in 2017 that spiked around Independence Day.

But during the period between mid-June to mid-July 2017, sparklers were the No. 1 cause of injuries, accounting for 14 percent of them.

Erin Murphy of The Gazette-Des Moines Bureau contributed.

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