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February 1, 2013

Fireworks accident may trigger restrictions

Preliminary report: Accident injured 13

PELHAM — A preliminary New Hampshire fire marshal’s report concludes last summer’s fireworks explosion that injured 13 was accidental.

“No criminal intent is suspected in this incident,” the preliminary report said. “In the absence of any new information forthcoming, this fireworks related explosion and subsequent fire shall be classified as ‘accidental’ and this report shall stand as final.”

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee received the report during a hearing on House Bill 336, which would prohibit the retail sale of some fireworks.

The panel also received first-hand victim accounts of the horror and chaos from the night of July 3 at the Dodge Road home of the Chris Pappathan family.

Pappathan’s daughter, Jessica Pappathan Bertini, recalled being separated from her son, Ben, who was badly burned.

“He was screaming for me and was terrified. I will never forget that image,” Bertini said. “He had what I kept describing as a hole under his arm, another near his wrist and his foot was mangled.”

Pappathan’s niece was there, too.

“As the firework landed on the pile I felt instant fear. One went off. Then they all went off,” Marci Foy of Greenfield recalled in a statement to the fire marshal provided the committee. “I threw up my arms over my face and ran down the stairs as the fireworks pierced my skin, screaming for my baby (Olivia).”

Pappathan had hosted a fireworks show for friends and neighbors for years and was surprised by the disaster.

“I was shocked by how rapidly the mortar shells on my deck exploded,” Pappathan said. “As I mentioned to the fire marshal, it was as if the shells were coated with gasoline and gunpowder.”

The preliminary report said the explosion originated on the rear deck of the home.

“The scene inspection was able to determine that there were approximately 344 reloadable mortar shells or effects stored on the deck prior to the explosion,” the report said.

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