The family of a 35-year-old man who died in a fireworks explosion is warning others about homemade devices.
Last month, Jesse Owen Thornton of the Puna district in Hawaii died while crafting a bottle rocket at home. An explosion occurred in the early hours of May 28, injuring his hand and causing damage to his liver, colon and rib.
Although Thornton was hospitalized, first at Hilo Medical Center and later at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, he died on May 30.
According to Jesse’s mother Vickie Eldridge Fowler, her son loved building and experimenting with gadgets as a small child.
“Jesse was such a creative soul and he was always fascinated with fireworks,” she told TODAY Parents. “He had been making them on his own here and there throughout life. I don’t know what happened.”
When Fowler received a call from daughter-in-law Marci Thornton that Jesse had been injured, she flew from Boise, Idaho to Hawaii.
“We had to wait until the next day for an update,” she recalled. “(Doctors) said Jesse would make it through the night — and he did for two nights — but it came to a point where you said, ‘That’s enough.'” Jesse was ultimately taken off life support.
A press release issued by the Hawaii Police Department stated that officials found materials used for homemade fireworks in Jesse’s home.
Fowler said her son was so resourceful and careful around fireworks that she rarely worried for his safety. “His motto was, ‘If you want it, you can make it,'” she recalled.
Jesse enjoyed teaching his step-daughters, ages 15 and 10, and his daughter, 3, how to cook dishes such as chicken cordon bleu. “He was an amazing dad,” said Fowler.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “homemade explosives can pose a particular risk for injury because the people making them often lack knowledge and experience in manufacturing fireworks.”
Fowler wants others to be aware of the dangers of building or setting off fireworks.
“Leave it to the professionals,” she told TODAY. “Don’t mess with it. And be careful if you do light up home fireworks. Every year, you hear about people being injured by fireworks and they aren’t worth it.”