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Sussex bonfire 'grenade' warning
Revellers heading for bonfire celebrations are being warned to be on alert for a new firework described as being like a “hand grenade”.
The warning was issued as it was revealed that the explosive is likely to have been responsible for the blinding of two people in Sussex last year.
Specialists at Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton treated a number of patients who were injured at Lewes Bonfire last year.
A 58-year-old and a 13-year-old were both blinded in one eye.
Three other patients, aged ten, 15 and 18, were seriously injured and now face a lifelong risk of glaucoma.
The Sussex Eye Hospital team said police inquiries suggested the injuries may be linked to “rope-banger deer scarers”.
These have a slow burning fuse that ignites several explosives along the rope.
When cut down, the fuse and explosive can be lit and thrown, causing an explosion described by one specialist as “being a bit like a hand grenade going off”.
All the patients involved had a blunt injury to the eyeball, caused by material within the explosive charge.
In a letter to the British Medical Journal, Edward Pringle and colleagues said: “Numbers of blinding injuries have fallen in countries with legislation that controls the use and distribution of fireworks.
“The UK has legislation to limit distribution, but deer scarers are exempt because they are not actual fireworks.”
They said 52% of firework injuries occur at public events, adding: “Organisers must engage their audience in safer use of fireworks and encourage eye protection.
“If we cannot create effective legislation, we must create a culture that does not tolerate the throwing of banger-type explosives into crowds.”
Mr Pringle said: “Nationally, around seven to eight serious eye injuries like these are expected to occur and so we were not expecting the five we got.
“We need to get the message out there that these types of explosives are extremely dangerous.
“In one of the patients we extracted a piece of explosive from their eye.
“This is why we are suggesting the use of eye protection or at least to raise awareness of this type of explosive.
“We don't want to see the same numbers coming back this year.”
A spokeswoman for Lewes District Council said: “The council, as a member of the Bonfire Safety Group, has been working with the bonfire societies and other agencies including Sussex Police to reduce accidents at
Lewes Bonfire celebrations.
“Last year there was a particular problem with ‘rookies’ causing serious eye injuries to a number of people. We are keen to avoid a repetition of this problem at this year’s event and will be promoting the use of eye protectors and ear defenders and discouraging the throwing or dropping of fireworks either in the crowds or in the processions.”
A Sussex Police spokeswoman said: “We have bonfire liaison officers who work directly with the societies.”
Noel Tobin, director of the National Campaign for Firework Safety, said: “This is not something that I have heard of before.
“People need to act responsibly around fireworks and explosives and should not be using something so potentially dangerous in this way.”
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