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Fireworks injury, 3 deaths mar Fourth of July holiday across Granite State


A 24-year-old man suffered a severe hand injury when a mortar shell firework exploded inside the launching tube while he was reloading it at a Pelham home Friday night.

The man was bleeding heavily from his wounds when Pelham public safety crews arrived at the Indian Valley Road home about 7:15 p.m., the Pelham Fire Department said Saturday.

He underwent emergency surgery at a Boston hospital Friday night. Fire officials provided no details on his condition.

The Fourth of July holiday was also marred by two drownings - one in Raymond, the other in Ossipee - and a fatal motorcycle crash in Rye.

In Raymond, a man drowned Saturday while trying to retrieve a canoe on Governor's Lake, according to state police.

Police said the 56-year-old man, whose name was not released, tried to swim out to his canoe, which had been blown off the shore about 11 a.m. Saturday. He began to struggle in the water. A witness swam out and brought him to shore and tried to resuscitate him.

The man was taken to Exeter Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.In the second drowning, officials said a 65-year-old man died Friday while swimming in Duncan Lake.

The man was swimming across a cove about 5 p.m. when friends and relatives saw him struggling and swam out to help, according to the New Hampshire Marine Patrol.

The man went underwater, but the other swimmers managed to find him within about 10 minutes and brought him to shore. First responders from Ossipee Fire and Rescue and police attempted to revive the victim, but could not.

His identity was withheld until his family could be notified.

In Rye, a motorcyclist died when his bike went off the road shortly after 9 a.m. Friday, according to police.

Matthew Dodge, 25, of 148 Norton Road, Kittery, Maine, was unconscious and not breathing when rescue crews arrived at the crash scene, in the area of 850 South Road.

Police said witnesses had stopped to help the injured man and had started CPR before paramedics arrived.

Dodge was taken by ambulance to Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police are investigating what led to the crash.

Friday's fireworks mishap involved the same type of explosive that caused injuries in Pelham two years ago. Thirteen people - including five children - suffered burns and puncture wounds on July 3, 2012, when an aerial spinner shell went awry and ignited nearly 350 fireworks on the back deck of a home on Dodge Road.

An investigation ruled the 2012 explosion an accident caused by human error. The incident triggered calls by some Pelham officials to require fireworks users to obtain permits. Pelham Selectman Edmund Gleason and Fire Chief James F. Midgley also testified before a state legislative subcommittee to return reloadable mortar shells to the restricted list.

"(We) didn't meet much support," Gleason said, noting Friday night's explosion also involved a reloadable device.

"It's the same concern. It's no different. When we had the hearing, we said, 'What's it going to take?" Gleason said.

"I'm sure the (fireworks) lobby will indicate it was operator error because that's what they do. And you have a lot of people in town who like to fire off fireworks,'' Gleason added.

Mary McCluskey, manager of Phantom Fireworks of New Hampshire in Londonderry, said she stops anyone leaving the store with reloadable mortar shells to ask whether they have used them before. If not, she said, she brings them over to a table she set up specifically to instruct customers on their proper use.

"They're very popular and they're very safe if used properly," McCluskey said.

The state Fire Marshal's Office is investigating Friday night's incident.

Pelham fire officials would not say whether the victim lived at the residence and would not specify the street address.(New Hampshire Sunday News reporter Shawne K. Wickham contributed to this report.)

kmarchocki@unionleader.com, swickham@unionleader.com


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