Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Dangerous Fireworks
A warning from police tonight. When it comes to the Fourth of July, fireworks are a big part of many celebrations, but if you're tempted to buy homemade devices, you could be buying into a world of trouble. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- This cardboard cat was stuffed with homemade fireworks by a couple of guys looking to blow off some steam.
Brian Gilbert: "We'll destroy the cat right in front of the U.S. post office."
Richard Ficarra: "All right."
Brian Gilbert: "Hopefully the FBI will not arrest us."
The device detonated with such force it was heard a mile away. It shook the post office and brought BSO to the scene.
And they did get arrested. Brian Gilbert and cameraman Richard Ficarra had no idea the $30 homemade device bought from a guy on the street could get them in such trouble.
Leah Mayersohn: "They didn't realize that the firework they bought ended up being the equivalent of a half a stick of dynamite."
Attorney Leah Mayersohn says the lark almost landed the pair in prison.
Leah Mayersohn: "They were looking at charging one of my clients with an offense that would have carried a 25-year minimum mandatory sentence, and the other one was also looking at some serious charges."
Brian Gilbert: "I'm walking over there."
Richard Ficarra: "Sweet!"
The duo got lucky and were eventually allowed to plead to misdemeanor charges, but they aren't the only ones getting in trouble. Law enforcement officials across Florida say they are seeing an increase of dangerous homemade fireworks on the street.
Helicopter Pilot: "There's the guy in the suit again."
Authorities in Lake Worth evacuated this neighborhood after finding what they thought were pipe bombs while investigating a burglary. The bomb squad was called in. Again, it was homemade fireworks bought on the street.
Leah Mayersohn: "We were told that my client might face both criminal charges and, at a minimum, there were substantial investigative costs associated with the actions. They took somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000."
On YouTube we found lots of folks having fun with homemade fireworks without getting in trouble with police. But there's another worry. What happens when homemade fireworks don't work right?
This young man posts he lost partial hearing as a result of this surprise detonation, and experts say that happens often with homemade devices. These were seized on the streets of South Florida.
Sgt. Chris McCoy: "They are more commonly known as M-100s, quarter sticks, blockbusters, but they're nothing more but some cardboard tube gunpowder inside a tube with a hobby fuse coming out."
BSO bomb squad Sergeant Chris McCoy says they're all illegal and very dangerous.
Sgt. Chris McCoy: "There's no quality control. I mean somebody making this in a garage or in their kitchen may or may not know what they are doing."
So if you want a big boom this fourth, the experts say leave it to the experts because almost all other fireworks, commercial or homemade, are against the law.
Sgt. Chris McCoy: "It's real simple. If it explodes or shoots in the air, in the State of Florida, it's illegal."
And this is what can happen when fun with fireworks goes bad.
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