A woman who lost an eye after a firework exploded in her face has called for a ban on their sale to members of the public – as new figures revealed more than 1,000 emergency incidents involving the explosives were reported in the last three years.
Amber Lewis suffered facial injuries “like something out of a horror movie” after the accident in the garden of her home on 31 January.
The 46-year-old from Cardiff had an eye removed and was nearly completely blinded as her other eye was also injured in the incident.
She has now called for a ban on over-the-counter firework sales, as figures obtained by Sky News showed firefighters have been called to at least 1,084 incidents involving the explosives in the UK since the start of 2018.
They included 20 incidents where fireworks were used to attack firefighters, according to data released by fire services under the Freedom of Information Act.
Ms Lewis told Sky News she fears more accidents like hers will occur this year in the run up to Bonfire Night as organised firework displays are cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“My concern is that people won’t understand the dangers,” she said.
“They’ll see these fireworks being sold in large supermarkets and buy them and accidents will happen.
“There are going to be huge amounts [of accidents] which is really scary. It’s not just going to be adults, it’s going to be youngsters as well.”
Ms Lewis said she bought the firework that caused her injuries from a licensed seller and followed the instructions when it went off “multiple times” and struck her face.
“The pain was nothing like I can explain,” she said. “It was a constant burn and there was a horrible smell.
“I burnt all my hairline and the firework had gone up my nose as well.
“I looked in the mirror and my eyeball had turned black.
“It looked like something out of a horror movie.
“I was really lucky not to have been totally blinded because I have scars on my right eye as well.”
Ms Lewis, who suffered her injuries at a family gathering, was rushed to hospital where she was told her eye would be removed the next morning.
“I’ve never been so scared in my whole life,” she said.
“It took a long time to stop having bad nightmares. For the first few weeks I couldn’t even talk to people or say what had happened.
“If I looked in the mirror, it was a constant reminder every morning about what happened.”
Sky News sent freedom of information requests to 49 UK fire services asking for details of emergency call-outs involving fireworks from January 2018 to October 2020.
A total of 1,084 incidents were recorded – including 159 incidents between January and October this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to responses from 36 fire services.
Among the responses:
- London Fire Brigade said “multiple fireworks were aimed at firefighters” after they were called to a car in flames – one of 253 incidents involving fireworks since 2018
- Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said 22 incidents involving fireworks were recorded – including one where firefighters were attacked by people throwing the explosives, and 11 incidents where they were pushed through letterboxes or thrown through windows
- Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue said it had attended 11 incidents involving fireworks including one where a firework was used a “bomb/incendiary device”
- Cheshire Fire and Rescue said it dealt with 11 incidents involving fireworks including three incidents where the explosives were pushed through letterboxes
- Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue said fireworks were thrown at firefighters during a “civil disturbance” in 2019
- Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service said three children were hit by fireworks in one incident in 2019
Ms Lewis, who only had a prosthetic eye fitted three weeks ago due to delays caused by COVID-19, told Sky News that if a ban on the public sale of fireworks cannot be introduced quickly then people should be made to take a safety course before buying them.
“I honestly never knew the dangers of fireworks,” she added.
“I feel like if I’d had to do a day’s training, or sign a disclaimer, I would have realised the danger of fireworks and I wouldn’t have done this.”
Ahead of Bonfire Night on 5 November, the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC) has urged people to “think twice” about setting off fireworks themselves.
Neil Odin, chairman of the NFCC’s prevention committee, said: “The pandemic means more families may try to hold displays at home perhaps without the experience of having handled fireworks before.
“We ask people to think twice about whether they need to have a display at home and instead look to other ways of celebrating Bonfire Night with their immediate families.
“If they choose to celebrate with fireworks at home, we ask them to plan very carefully and ensure they buy suitable, legal fireworks and they have sufficient space to hold a display to make their celebration as safe as possible.”
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