Wash. fireworks vendor who lost arm urges safety

Was cleaning out small cannon that had gunpowder

STEVENSON, Wash. - A Stevenson fireworks vendor who lost his arm in a Fourth of July accident is sharing his story in hopes of helping others avoid a tragedy.

On Saturday, fireworks went on sale in Washington state. Ray Lueders, a fireworks vendor, was looking forward to selling his pyrotechnics to revelers celebrating the Fourth.

But KGW reports Lueders also wants to caution people about using fireworks safely.

In 2010, he was gearing up for his family's annual barbecue and fireworks show.

"That was going to be the biggest Fourth of July celebration we've ever had," he said.

But in a blink of an eye, the night turned tragic.

Lueders was cleaning out a set of small cannons, used to launch fireworks, with a cordless drill, when one of them that was still filled with gunpowder from a New Year's Eve celebration exploded.

"I stuck the drill bit in the fuse hole and, for some reason, I put my arm in a different spot on that one -- and the friction on the drill bit touched off the powder that had dried out and took my arm off," he said.

Although he was in shock and losing blood, Lueders managed to call 911. Paramedics flew him to Legacy Emanuel in Portland.

Lueders survived, but lost the lower part of his left arm.

Now, he promotes firework safety along with celebrations.

"We've stepped up the safety thing quite a bit," Lueders said. He no longer uses cannons, instead he sticks with the smaller, safer rockets.

Anyone planning on using fireworks should make sure they are on a smooth, flat surface, away from houses and dry leaves. Light only one at a time, then move back quickly. And never ty to re-ignite or pick up fireworks that haven't fully ignited.

Lueders also says it's important to take the time to think about what you're doing before lighting fireworks.

"Common sense – a little bit of common sense goes a long way," he said.

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