Rifle-waving Yank's premature detonation ruins city's big bang

Ricochet sparks 1am fireworks blast, wrecks rusty wrecks

An early morning rifle test ended rather badly yesterday when a rogue shot detonated $80,000 of fireworks set aside for Fourth of July celebrations.

The unnamed shooter, who was reported to be the owner of a car wrecking yard in Bainbridge Island, Washington, was giving his new firearm a go at 1am when a ricochet flew off a rusting motor and hit a container packed with Independence Day incendiaries.

The blunder provoked "the greatest fireworks show you ever would have wanted to not see", said Ron Krell, the organiser of neighbouring Poulsbo city's 3rd of July shindig. The box had contained the explosives for displays on the island and in Poulsbo.

Fire investigator Jeromy Hicks, who attended the scene of the premature detonation, said: "It went boom. I think it was a cascading series of explosions that lasted about a minute. I live a mile and a half away, and it shook my wife out of bed. She said, 'Man, I think we just had an earthquake.' Me, I sleep through anything."

What was left after the conflagration was "a smoking crater and the charred hulk of the container", and a gaping hole in the wallet of Robert Nitz, a "mortgage-finance specialist who produces budget fireworks shows in his spare time". He had been tasked with putting together the island's evening show.

While Nitz's insurance covered him for the usual public liability, like a firework hitting someone, there was "no clause in the contract that covered somebody shooting a gun while the pyrotechnics were in legally permitted storage".

Similarly, the car wrecker's insurers are unlikely to cough for the mishap. Krell explained: "We don't think the insurance will cover it, because it happened on business property and shooting a gun at 1 in the morning has nothing whatever to do with his business of auto wrecking — though he did wreck some autos."

In the end, Nitz decided the show must go on, and stumped for more fireworks from his own pocket, although an online appeal for cash may see him recoup some of his loss.

Bainbridge Island is part of Washington's Kitsap County. Long-term readers may recall another trigger-happy local who in 2007 ended up in a pretty bad state after blasting a stubborn wheel nut on his Lincoln Continental with a 12-gauge shotgun. ®

Bootnote

Thanks to Bob Clark for the tip-off. We only need one more Kitsap County firearm-related mishap story and we can flag it on our big Vulture Central wall map as an "area of outstanding natural stupidity".

Sponsored: Network DDoS protection