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NY man blows off arm with fireworks

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Man loses arm while shooting fireworks
  • Friends pack arm in ice and take it to the hospital
  • 6,000 fireworks-related incidents reported around July 4th holiday in 2009

New York (CNN) -- Like fireworks, it has become an Independence Day weekend tradition unto itself: fireworks-related injury.

On Saturday, a man lighting fireworks outside his Long Island home became the latest victim when he completely severed his left arm from his shoulder, Suffolk County police said.

Eric Smith, 36, was using a three-foot-long metal tube to shoot mortars near his Islip Terrace home on Saturday evening. One of the explosives shot out and struck him in the left arm, taking it off, said police.

Smith's friends wrapped the arm in ice and took him to the emergency room at Southside Hospital, and he was transferred to the intensive care unit of Nassau County Medical Center, where he is listed in critical, but stable condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

While she wouldn't comment on the status of Smith's arm, spokeswoman Shelley Lotenburg said the hospital does not perform limb reattachments.

Smith was illegally using a commercial fireworks device -- which explodes at a much greater force than a firecracker, said Suffolk County Police Lt. Mathew Sullivan.

A new study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that nearly 9,000 people were taken to the emergency room and two people died in 2009 from fireworks-related incidents.

Of them, nearly 6,000 of the injuries took place during the 30 days surrounding last year's 4th of July holiday -- and many resulted in the loss of a limb.

Among the safety steps the commission recommends are the following:

• Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move back to a safe distance immediately after lighting.

• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.

• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

• Light one item at a time, and then move back quickly.

• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.