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un06.07.2017 Fireworks injuries and accidents keep Omaha-area hospitals, police and fire crews busy

Reports of fireworks-related injuries and damage continue to be filed after Fourth of July celebrations.

On Tuesday, a Council Bluffs man lost his right thumb and damaged several fingers in Nebraska’s Washington County. Jacob Howell, 29, was taken by medical helicopter to the Nebraska Medical Center after being injured at a family gathering.

Howell, who was listed in fair condition Wednesday, also suffered burns to his chest, Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson said.

The injury occurred while Howell was lighting artillery shell fireworks and rolling them on the ground, Robinson said.

The artillery shells are designed to explode in the air after being placed in a mortar tube and ignited.

A Washington County deputy was first on the scene and gave Howell medical aid. He was joined by medical personnel from Blair and Fort Calhoun.

“Deputy Cody Peters did a great job of applying a tourniquet right away,” Robinson said. “The medics from Fort Calhoun and Blair said our guy was able to get the bleeding stopped.”

Howell was injured about 2:45 p.m. at a Fourth of July celebration outside a home in the unincorporated town of De Soto, which is between Fort Calhoun and Blair on U.S. Highway 75.

Fireworks injuries kept Omaha-area hospitals busy. The Methodist Health System, which includes Methodist Hospital and Methodist Women’s Hospital in Omaha and Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs, reported 14 fireworks-related cases, including a fracture, since officials started tracking the numbers June 30. All of the injured were treated and released, a spokeswoman said.

The CHI Health system reported 26 fireworks-related injuries in its five metro-area hospitals from Saturday through Tuesday. And from June 25 through Tuesday, Nebraska Medicine hospitals treated 24 people for fireworks-related injuries.

Fireworks also kept the Omaha mayor’s hotline hopping, with about 200 fireworks-related calls received since Friday, a spokeswoman said. Mayor Jean Stothert has said she wants to shorten the time people can set off or sell Independence Day fireworks in Omaha from 10 days to five.

“We estimate about 200 calls, emails and messages (were received) Friday through (Wednesday) morning,” spokeswoman Carrie Murphy said. “Many of these are people expressing support or opposition to the mayor’s request ... others are complaining about fireworks after the 11 p.m. cutoff time.”