UPDATE: Arrests have been made in this case. See the news stories below for more information.
Russell Lester and Bryan Walls were attending a party on Fourth of July in west Bakersfield, celebrating our nation’s independence and wedding reception. By the end of the night, they were in local hospitals.
The two arrived at the party where party-goers were allegedly setting off illegal fireworks and explosives. Lester and Walls were asked to hold the balloons while they were filled with acetylene gas, which is very unstable, highly flammable gas. The balloons were being taped to a pole when they exploded. It’s possible static electricity ignited them.
Four people were severely injured in the blast, including Lester and Walls. The two suffered burns to their face, chest and arms. Lester lost all the hearing in his right ear and partial hearing in his left ear, and lost peripheral vision in his left eye. Walls suffered hearing loss, too, and Lester’s burns were so severe that he was taken to a Fresno burn center. Others were taken to San Joaquin Community Hospital‘s Grossman Burn Center.
Bakersfield personal injury attorney David Cohn, with the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, is representing Lester and Walls, who continue to receive medical treatment.
The incident has been covered by local media in recent days. The case was publicly revealed by KERO Channel-23 News on Aug. 4, a month after the actual accident.
Jim Trino, who allegedly was igniting the bombs, told KERO he was celebrating his wedding reception that night. He told KERO that he had been setting off legal and illegal fireworks for more than 30 years, including the acetylene bomb which he pumped the gas into balloons, hung on a metal pole in the middle of a field, and ignited.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Kern County Fire Arson unit are now investigating.
The Bakersfield Californian also covered the case, including an article by Californian columnist Lois Henry, who argues that local safety agencies failed to inform the public properly about the incident. She calls it “a communications and training failure, something that can only be fixed from the top down.”
To catch up on the news coverage, click the links below:
- Sheriff’s investigating homemade explosion that injured four people at July 4th celebration (KERO-23, ABC)
- Four injured in acetylene bomb explosion during Bakersfield party (The Bakersfield Californian)
- LOIS HENRY: A fireworks disaster you may not have heard about (The Bakersfield Californian)
- 2 arrested in July 4th explosion that injured 4 in west Bakersfield (KERO-23, ABC)
- Two arrested in July 4 fireworks incident (The Bakersfield Californian)
- First Look with Scott Cox: Lois Henry on severe fireworks incident (Bakersfield.com)
- LOIS HENRY: KHSD must commit to protect disabled kids; bomb party antics another nail in fireworks’ coffin (The Bakersfield Californian)
- Two accused in July 4 explosions plead not guilty (The Bakersfield Californian)
The personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are major proponents of fireworks safety and providing burn victims with world-class care. Go HERE for tips on celebrating the Fourth of July safely. And read about our $200,000 donation to the Grossman Burn Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital HERE.
If you’ve been burned in an accident, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately.