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'Your life is not worth that': Illegal fireworks a continuous problem in Kansas City metro

Man dies after manufacturing illegal fireworks
raytown duplex explosion.jpg
Posted at 9:37 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 00:06:48-04

RAYTOWN, Mo.  — One man is dead after an explosion of illegal fireworks in the basement of a Raytown duplex, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Kansas City. Three others are in the hospital, including two children.

Three others are in the hospital, including two children.

John Ham, public information officer with the ATF, said there's no doubt the man in the duplex was manufacturing illegal fireworks – "And maybe trying to reconstruct some other fireworks."

It's a growing problem, according to Ham, that's not going away in the Kansas City metro, as there seems to be one explosion caused by illegal fireworks every year.

"There’s this drive for some reason to to keep pushing the envelope and this is the result every year," Ham said.

Manipulating fireworks can spark an explosion easily, according to Ham.

"The powders are so sensitive," he said. "They’re shock sensitive, friction sensitive, heat sensitive and so it takes literally nothing to set off a quantity of this powder."

The black market, online or through word of mouth, is where people buy and sell illegal fireworks. Ham told 41 Action News he's never really seen a problem when it comes to the firework tents or stores.

"They’re very well regulated," Ham said. "They’re inspected by the state, they’re inspected by the local fire Marshall offices as well. We just don’t run into that."

Donna Nuccio, store manager for Pyro City Fireworks in Lone Jack, told 41 Action News they know about the problem and always tell customers it's unsafe.

"All the time you have like the little kids, they’re trying to come in and they want to make different things with fireworks," Nuccio said. "Well, it wasn’t designed for that, so if it’s a sparkler, you just use it as a sparkler. You don’t use it as a sparkler bomb."

Nuccio said to ensure that safety, there are a few guidelines to look for on the firework.

"It tells you what side to face for your audience, and then it tells you the description the performance, heights, the color, the type, the design, how many shots and that’s what people need to be looking for," she said.

Even knowing the brands of fireworks can be a safe bet.

"You have that reliability with a Black Cat trademark on it, you know, that it’s been around for a long time," Nuccio said. "You know that you have the security and the years of making that firework."

Nuccio said they hand out safety flyers to those who want them to remind customers how to properly light off a firework and to keep themselves safe.

The ATF issued a reminder that dying from illegal fireworks is 100% preventable.

"This is not worth whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish," Ham said. "Your life is not worth that."

In this explosion, about 5 to 10 pounds of powder leveled the duplex.