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A cautionary tale: Man recalls loss of hand in 2020 fireworks accident

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Ethan Porter Stiles’ skill in the shop is sharp, but the way the motorcycle mechanic and connoisseur works these days is different than ever before.

The Indianapolis man lost most of his hand in a freak fireworks accident on the Fourth of July in 2020.

He said it’s not clear what caused fireworks to malfunction.

“As soon as the flame touched it, it blew up, and you don’t think it’s going to be like a video game or movie, but everything was slow motion … bright green flash, kind of disoriented, couldn’t hear out of my right ear,” Stiles said.

Now, he’s sharing his story to warn others.

“It’s literally a bomb. You’re lighting off bombs, and I knew that, but freak accidents happen and you definitely don’t want to be like this,” Stiles said.

The Indiana State Department of Health’s latest fireworks injury data from 2017 shows 238 cases; 94 of those happened on July 4. That makes up for nearly 40% of all reported cases that year.

The 2017 data also showed nearly 57% of the injuries happened from the malfunctioning or mishandling of fireworks.

After several surgeries and physical therapy, Stiles is back at work, again on the bike, and can do almost everything he did before the accident. But, he said, he knows he’s lucky and hopes his new way of life can serve as a lesson to all.

“Not everybody gets to, I guess, a near-death experience and gets to realize or have other people realize how much they mean to each other, but definitely people care about you so definitely be as cautious as you can,” Stiles said.

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