Los Angeles

California gardener left with missing fingers, vision loss as leftover firework explodes in hands

“I saw his wrist bone and there was nothing past it,” a neighbor recalled

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A Torrance gardener lost several fingers and part of his vision, and has loose teeth after a leftover Fourth of July firework exploded in his hand. Macy Jenkins reports July 16, 2023.

A gardener was just going about his job when a leftover Fourth of July firework exploded in his hand, leaving him with life-altering injuries.

Hector Mayoral was finishing up work at a home Saturday, July 8, when he picked up an item with the intention of throwing it in the trash. Instead, it exploded, leaving him with missing fingers, partial vision loss and loose teeth.

“It was an ugly explosion. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” Mayoral said Sunday in an interview with NBC Los Angeles, burns still visible on his face and abdomen, and both hands heavily bandaged.

The blast, he said, sent him reeling into his pickup truck’s door frame.

The explosion was captured on a neighbor's front door camera. The video showed a quick flash of fire, followed by a large cloud of smoke.

The neighbor, Ken Lucas was in his backyard when he heard the boom, which was so loud it made him jump. He ran outside to find Mayoral distraught and confused as he bled from his hand.

“I saw his wrist bone and there was nothing past it,” Lucas recalled.

Neighbors, on the phone with 911, suggested a tourniquet. Lucas wrapped a strap around Mayoral’s arm and held it there until firefighters arrived.

“It could have killed Hector and it could have killed one of the kids in the neighborhood, you know?” Lucas said about the firework.

Mayoral said he often brings his nephew along with him, since he’s on vacation, and has him pick up some of the trash. Thankfully, the boy wasn’t with him that day. If he had been, Mayoral fears the firework indeed could have killed him.

Mayoral is still recovering in the aftermath of the blast. He has searing pain on his left hand. He holds back tears describing how his 5-year-old niece helps to feed him, since he still can’t do it himself. He can’t see out of one eye, and vision in the other is blurry.

“I know I can’t ever have my hand back, but I hope to God my vision returns,” Mayoral said.

In addition to being a gardener, Mayoral also over the last two years opened up a mobile pizza business. He’s now afraid he won’t be able to get back to work.

Neighbors have set up an online fundraising page to help him, including with medical bills.

“I have to pay everything. I don’t have the resources to say, ‘Let’s go to the hospital and I’ll quickly pay when the bill arrives or something.’ So, I have to figure out what to do,” Mayoral said.

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