In retrospect, Heather Sullivan wishes her family had better secured the fireworks they shot off for the Fourth of July in 2016.Screenshot/KUTV
The Sandy, Utah, mom explained that the family had gathered in the backyard for a fireworks display when her husband lit an aerial for the grand finale.
The force of the first aerial was so strong when it launched that it tipped the remaining aerials in the box, aiming the ignited rockets at the spectators.
Heather was seated nearby with her daughter, Giselle, in her lap when an aerial flew directly at them. Without any time to move from its path, her daughter was struck directly in the face.
Heather discussed the incident with KUTV, recalling the harrowing moment she realized what was going on:
“When I realized what was happening I just tried to cover her face.”
Heather tried to cup her hands over her daughter’s face, but it was too late. The rocket hit the 6-year-old in the eye.Screenshot/YouTube
In addition to an eye injury, Giselle suffered brain swelling from the blunt force trauma of being hit. Four surgeries later, she is legally blind in her left eye and can only see shapes and shadows.
Giselle is now an ambassador for fireworks safety, specifically when it comes to protective eyewear. According to KUTV, with the help of her parents, she has distributed over 100 pairs of goggles.
A report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission states that in 2014, approximately 10,500 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries. Between June 20 and July 20 of that year, more than one-third of patients were under 15 years of age; 9 percent were under the age of 5.National Fire Protection Association Fact Sheet
As Heather explained, her daughter wasn’t roaming the yard or lighting the fireworks herself, which made her injury all the more unforeseen.
In an informational safety video, Sandy Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Dekorver discussed the importance of securing fireworks (where they’re legal) with weights, such as heavy rocks, so that the percussion of fireworks don’t cause it to tip and fall over:
Dekorver explained that pebbles and uneven surfaces can cause the flat clay base of an aerial to tip, and the percussion of the firework can then cause it to rock and possibly fall over.
What happened in Heather’s backyard may have been a freak accident, but one she said didn’t have to happen:
“The thing that we most want parents to know from our tragedy is this all definitely could have been prevented had we just taken a couple of extra safety precautions.”
The Sullivans will not be deterred from enjoying the fireworks this year. However, they have decided to attend a public display and will not be celebrating in the backyard for a long time.