It took just seconds for an early Fourth of July party to go bad. Shirley Igbuhay was outside her South Tampa home when her neighbor's friend, 24-year-old Matthew Lewandowski tried lighting off a mortar just before 1:30 this morning. The results were disastrous.
"He was holding it like this, had a lighter in his other hand so he lit it up and it exploded," she said.
Right there in his hand. The blast took off his left thumb and seriously injured his hand. It also left him badly burned on his forearms, torso and right leg.
"He started yelling call 911, call 911 I broke my hand," Kobvey Igbuhay said. "It got serious I was like oh man this guy is really hurt," he added.
It's an example of just how dangerous fireworks can be and what can happen with one small lapse in judgment.
Joseph Brown, operator of a Galaxy Fireworks tent on Dale Mabry says fireworks are safe as long they're set off responsibly.
"As long as you use common sense, light the fuse, get away from them, they're fine," Brown said.
His tent was bustling Wednesday with shoppers looking to ring in their holiday with a bang. He says mortars, the same style that injured Lewandowski, are some of the most popular sellers.
"You got to use them the right way," Howard Heinzman said.
Heinzman has been shooting off fireworks for years and years without any problems.
"Alcohol and fireworks don't mix. Stupidity and fireworks don't mix. You got to do it the right way," he said.
Because it only takes one mistake to go from fun to frightening.
As for Igbuhay after what she saw Wednesday morning, she says she's putting an end to explosives like these for now.
"We're not going to be doing fireworks for a while," she said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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