Thursday, July 5, 2007

In one instant, life changed

The Fourth of July brings, fun, festivities and unfortunately, every year brings it's share of tragedies. The numerous traffic accidents, small picnic related aches and pains, sadly overcooked hamburgers and the moments that change lives forever.

In Los Angeles CA, a 13 year-old boy found what he thought was a "Roman Candle" firework in a closet, took it outside and lit it. Instead of the shower of sparks he expected to enjoy, the powerful firework exploded in his hand, destroying four fingers. All fireworks are banned in Los Angeles and the police are investigating the accident. In that brief moment, his life has changed as so many experience each year in firework related accidents.

Life changed even more tragically for the Barse family around 10:15 pm July 3 in Melvindale MI. Danielle Barse, 27 and a mother of three, leaned over what is described as "dud" 3-inch commercial-grade aerial mortor in the parking lot of the Town Auto Wash. The mortor which was thought have not ignited went off at that time and shot into her face. When the smoke had cleared seconds later from the informal fireworks display, Barse was found with her face blown off and was soon pronounced dead on arrival at Detroit Receiving Hospital.

Dominic Lombardi, owner of the car wash, said that they had closed at 6 pm that day and display that his employee Barse had participated in was not sanctioned. Unfortunately, her twin 2 year-old boys and 8 year-old son witnessed the fatal error that their mother made.

Michigan is one of nineteen states that allows it's residents to purchase and use non-aerial and non-explosive fireworks such as novelties, sparklers and fountains. Authorities seized a truckload of illegal fireworks on July 4 from Tomboy, a deli and party store on Dix, not far from the scene of the accident. They have not said yet how they linked Barse's death to them and are not clear yet if charges will be filed.

In the brief moments it took for Michelle McIntosh, 39, to step out of her maroon Plymouth minivan, a day planned of fun at the park, turned to tragedy. At about 10:45 am, she stopped at a concession stand at Beardsley Park CT and stepped out to ask for directions as to where to park. The van, an automatic that had been left with the engine running, began to roll down the hill towards Bunnells Pond, some 65 yards away. McIntosh was seen running after ther van and managed to get into it as it reached the water.

Fire Battalion Chief Ismael Pomales said that the van sank quickly with McIntosh and three children inside. He reported that the back hatch had been opened slightly and this allowed the van to sink into the 15-20 feet of water much more quickly than expected. Men who were nearby playing vollyball attempted to dive to the van and rescue the occupents before the fire department divers arrived. The firefighters were dressed in coldwater suits and only one was able to touch the roof of the van because of an increase in bouyancy.

The Bridgeport Police Departments scuba team arrived within 5 minutes of the fire department and they were able to pull the four from the water. Unfortunately, they had been underwater for 20 to 25 minutes and despite attempts to revive them, Michelle, her son David Jr, 3 and Julia Wilson, 3, the daughter of a family friend all perished. Another 6 year-old nephew was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he was in critical condition Wednesday night. Sadly, Jayden Wilson died this afternoon.

Julia's mother had been driving the car behind McIntosh and had attempted to rescue her daughter after seeing the van roll into the water. Julia had said that she wanted to ride with her friend David in the McIntosh van. The police are unsure at this time what gear the van was in when it was found but they have said that the emergency brake had not been deployed.

"All of the evidence we have at this point definately points to it as an unfortunate, horrible accident," Bridgeport police Capt Lynn Kerwin said.

Bunnells Pond, a stretch of the Pequonnock River that had been dammed to create a pond has a tragic legacy. It has a powerful undertow and sharp drop-offs and since 1921, has had 72 drownings in it. When it was drained a few years ago, the sheer drop-offs were plainly visable, some of them dropping 40 feet from the shoreline to the bottom.

In just a few moments of distraction, lives have been changed. A thirteen year-old boy faces a very different life than planned. Danielle Barse's children and family face the grief and struggle to move forward from what they witnessed. Three families will need to find the way to move beyond the loss of Michelle McIntosh, an employee in the financial assistance office of Monroe College, New Rochelle NY and the three young lives cut tragically short with her.

Of note:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that there were 36 firework- related deaths between 2000 and 2005

Barse's funeral is planned for Friday at the John Molner Funeral Home, 14032 Northline, Southgate. Visitation is 1-7 followed by the service.

Update: posted July 6

Bridgeport and state police are continuing their investigation into July 4th accident. They have not yet stated what gear the van was in at the time of the accident but a spokesman for Chrysler has said that the 1999 Plymouth Grand Voyager didn't have a brake-shift interlock. The device prevents a vehicle from shifting out of park unless the brake pedal is depressed. Chrysler has since installed these in their newer minivans but there was no recall on older vehicles and owners may not know the risk they may face.

Various witnesses have said that besides McIntosh, who chased down the rolling van and was dragged briefly before getting in, other visitors to the park tried to stop the van before it entered the water. 6 year-old Jayden was the first to rescued from the van by police divers and all were freed from the van within 20 minutes of the accident.

Michelle's husband David, a 40 year-old government auditor, has said that Michelle was going to the park to set up the planned picnic and was to return to their Palm Street home to pick up the rest of the family. The couple, married for 19 years, had been childhood sweethearts in Jamaica. They came to the U S in 1987 and lived first in NY before eventually buying the multi-family home in Bridgeport. Family members have speculated that David Jr, who may not have been strapped in the van's front seat, may have released the van from park. It has been reported also, that there was only one child car seat recovered from the van.

"She was very loving. She's always there for us," said Michelle's daughter Jenille.

Besides her husband, Michelle is survived by three daughters.

For Pictures and video, go here.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Only 36? Keep them coming! We need to weed the population a little bit more.