Belfast Telegraph

Man blinded by firework

By Chris Kilpatrick

A young man is likely to be blind in one eye after a firework which had been hurled in his direction exploded in his face.

North Belfast man Colum Kelly was at home in Carlisle Parade in the New Lodge area on Saturday evening.

He was disturbed by young people letting fireworks off outside the property and throwing stones.

The 23-year-old opened a window to shout at them when a firework tossed at him exploded close to his face — causing severe injuries to his right eye.

Mr Kelly underwent surgery at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital yesterday.

His father, Joe, said he has a slim chance of regaining sight in his damaged eye.

“The doctors are worried about damage to his optical nerves,” said Joe Kelly. “The surgeon told him this morning that he has a 10% chance of regaining his sight.

“The damage is really bad. He’s cut right up through his retina which split his eye, his eyelid and has scarred him right up from his eyebrow to his forehead as well as other extensive burns and damage to the side of his face.

“So it’s going to take a long time for him to heal.”

North Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Conor Maskey called on

parents to ensure their children aren’t handling fireworks.

“Parents need to be extremely vigilant that their children are not handling these fireworks, both for their own safety and the safety of others,” he added. “The community should send a clear signal to those that sell illegal fireworks that it is not acceptable and information on people selling them should be brought to the PSNI. My thoughts are with the young man injured and hopefully he will make a full recovery.”

Last Thursday saw the start of the annual Fireworks Safety Awareness Campaign which aims to reduce the number of fireworks-related injuries. It targets young people with advertisements across television, cinema, radio and social networking sites.

Justice Minister David Ford said: “Last year 20 young people suffered fireworks injuries. We need to reduce these figures and keep our young people safe which is why our campaign will specifically target a younger audience and their parents.”

Public Safety Minister Edwin Poots said: “I would urge everyone involved with fireworks to use them safely to avoid the terrible injuries we have seen in the past.”

The PSNI has also warned it will be increasing efforts to disrupt the illegal sale and importation of fireworks.

Factfile

It is illegal to buy, sell or use fireworks in Northern Ireland without a licence. Licences for garden fire work displays start at £30.

Last year saw 20 young people injured by fireworks, a big reduction from 2010 when 47 people were injured, and 30 in 2009.

Most victims are young men.

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