Honolulu EMS reports long list of fireworks-related injuries in ‘brutal’ start to new year

Oahu first responders reported one of the busiest starts to the new year in recent memory, with at least eight people seriously injured by illegal fireworks.
Published: Jan. 1, 2023 at 11:58 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 1, 2023 at 9:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu first responders reported one of the busiest starts to the new year in recent memory, with at least eight people seriously injured by illegal fireworks.

There were also dozens of calls for difficulty breathing and 15 assaults, including a stabbing. Authorities didn’t immediately say how many of the assault victims were linked to New Year’s celebrations.

Honolulu Emergency Services Director Dr. Jim Ireland described it as a “pretty brutal night.”

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Altogether, Honolulu EMS responded to about a dozen calls for fireworks-related injuries overnight Saturday into Sunday.

The most serious was reported about 12:49 a.m. Sunday in Wahiawa, when a 29-year-old man sustained facial injuries in an apparent fireworks explosion. The patient was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

“Unfortunately, what we did see last night was quite a few injuries from aerial fireworks striking people — mostly in the face, which caused devastating cranial facial injuries,” Ireland said.

There were also at least six other people in serious condition:

  • In Nanakuli, two men were injured when they lit fireworks near a fuel drum. Officials said they were left with deep lacerations and shrapnel injuries.
  • In Waipahu, a 36-year-old man was in serious condition after getting hit with a firework in his chest. In addition to cuts and burns, several of his teeth were knocked out.
  • Others in serious condition included patients who sustained injuries to the genitals, hands and face.

Ireland said many of the injuries were from aerial fireworks, as New Year’s revelers once again flouted a 2010 law that banned fireworks.

Only firecrackers with a permit are legal.

“My concern is is the aerials often are professional grade fireworks. And people that use them may or may not be professionals at handling fireworks, and they’re all illegal,” Ireland said.

“These are projectiles, they often explode at the end of their trip. And if it’s a human body they’re going into, the injuries are really devastating.”

Ahead of the holiday, Honolulu police focused on preventing people from stopping on freeways to watch fireworks rather than attempting to deter people setting off fireworks themselves.

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Meanwhile, emergency responders also got at least 25 calls from people who were having difficulty breathing.

And the assaults reported overnight include a stabbing that left a victim in critical condition.

Ireland says because EMS is short-staffed, crews had to use their resources wisely by treating many patients at the scene before responding to the next call.

“I can’t thank them enough for coming in and helping and saving lives last night rather than being at home with their families, but that’s their job. And that’s what they do,” said Ireland.

On HPD’s side, officers were seeing patrolling the H-1 Freeway to prevent people from parking to watch the fireworks. Officials had warned residents would physically move cars if need be.

On Saturday night, one viewer filmed a long line of tow trucks ready to do just that.

The Honolulu Fire Department also saw an increase in calls on New Year’s Eve.

One of them involved a house fire related to fireworks.

HFD Capt. Malcolm Medrano told the reporters the home had minor damage thanks to the quick actions of a neighbor who saw a firework hit the roof and witnessed the fire starting.

Fire officials say the increase shows the continued need for a “total statewide ban” on consumer aerial fireworks and firecrackers.

But some wonder if that would even stop the illegal use of fireworks.

Mark Talaeai who runs MeanHawaii, an Instagram page with more than 260,000 followers, got a slew of submissions from people who captured the fireworks displays.

“It’s hard to stop tradition here in Hawaii,” said Talaeai.