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June 26, 2013

Fireworks safety still a concern, but no laws passed

But no new regulations have been passed

A Pelham family whose annual Fourth of July celebration last year ended with an explosion that injured 13 is done with their neighborhood fireworks display.

“No, they will absolutely not have one,” Pelham Selectmen’s Chairman Ed Gleason said of his relatives in the Pappathan family. “This has been too traumatic an experience. There have been too many repercussions.”

For some, those repercussions will unfold for years to come. Gleason said his step-great-grandson, Ben Bertini, 4, can expect skin treatments for burns until he is 21.

A fire marshal’s investigation ruled the fireworks explosion, the worst in state history, accidental.

A report provided to the Legislature said one firework, what witnesses described as a “spinner,” flew off a deck, landing in a pile of reloadable mortar shells stored on a deck as people gathered to watch.

The horror that unfolded will be with the partygoers forever.

“I’ve learned that life can completely change in a matter of seconds,” homeowner Chris Pappathan told lawmakers.

The Legislature, at the urging of the fire marshal, is considering a ban of reloadable mortar shells, but put off action this session.

Pelham selectmen, in the aftermath of the accident, last year held community forums to consider actions that could have included a ban, but decided, 3-2, against pursuing tighter regulations.

No one who spoke to selectmen wanted a ban.

Town officials initially talked about working with fireworks companies to better educate the public about safety, but that has not happened.

“The education process has not materialized,” said Gleason, who had favored instituting a permit system after the accident. “This has died a slow death. There was no support for it.”

Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks, which operates stores in Londonderry and Seabrook, would oppose a state ban on reloadable mortars, a company executive said yesterday.

William A. Weimer, vice president with Phantom, said it wasn’t the fireworks that caused the injuries in Pelham.

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