Police Identify Explosive Device as Aerial Salute Firework

By Rebecca Huff

The device that exploded and incapacitated 12-year-old Caleb Bogan in Oxford on March 19, has been identified as a pyrotechnic device also known as an aerial salute firework.

An aerial salute is supposed to be launched hundreds of feet into the air where it detonates with a loud bang and a flash.

According to the Oxford Police Department, it may have been partially lit when Bogan and his friend, Brendon Jones found it in an alley behind 131 E. Withrow St., near McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital’s parking lot. Oxford Police Sergeant Jon Varley, explained that could be why it exploded so quickly when Bogan lit it.

According to police, the boys described the device as being about the size of a baseball, with a short fuse that was partially charred.

“While they may be fun, they can be dangerous. Fireworks are unpredictable. You get some that detonate early and people get injured, you get some that launch into the air like this and sometimes they don’t launch as expected; they can go sideways instead of up,” Varley said.

Three days prior to this incident, police were notified about fireworks being set off near the hospital parking lot. Alexander Freund, 19, an engineering student at Miami, was found responsible for illegally setting off bottle rockets on March 16. He was charged on April 9 with violating the state law that forbids ordinary people from detonating most types of fireworks.

Varley said the two events are not connected.

“Unfortunately, the fireworks aren’t that uncommon in the north end in Oxford and we don’t know where that one [that injured Caleb Bogan] came from,” Varley said. “It could have been sitting there for days; it could have been sitting there for a couple of hours. We just don’t know.”

Despite how powerful this type of aerial salute firework is, it can still be purchased at a local fireworks establishment. But, according to the Ohio Revised Code, it is illegal to discharge any fireworks in Ohio that are not “novelty and trick fireworks,” unless you have a permit to stage a fireworks exhibition.

The Ohio Revised Code describes the novelty and trick fireworks as “Devices that produce a small report intended to surprise the user, including, but not limited to, booby traps, cigarette loads, party poppers and snappers; (2) snakes or glow worms; (3) smoke devices; and (4) trick matches.”

“It’s just tragic that this young man is now going to live with this for the rest of his life and that’s exactly why fireworks are illegal because of this type of incident. People get hurt and for no good reason,” Varley said. “If it doesn’t injure somebody like this personally it could start fires, burning down buildings and injuring people that way.”

The March 19 incident is still under investigation, he said.