Guy Fawkes celebration turns into arms race

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The Independent Online
Safety campaigners yesterday called for tougher controls on powerful imported fireworks, especially from the Far East, after a second death over the weekend, at a bonfire party in Kent.

Last night, after safety experts branded some of the more powerful pyrotechnics imported from the Far East as retailed "bombs" , the casualty list in the run up to tonight's Guy Fawkes celebrations increased.

In Marlborough, Wiltshire, a fireworks organiser, Richard Nocton, sustained burns to his face and neck and was knocked unconscious by an exploding mortar rocket. He had been attempting to light the rocket. The public display was halted as Mr Nocton was taken to hospital.

In Kent, Steve Timcke, 34, a wealthy City trader, died instantly when a grenade-shaped "professional" firework, with instructions only in Chinese, blew up in his face. The fireworks display at his Wilmington home, near Dartford, was intended to be spectacular. His two young children were among 40 people at the private party on Saturday evening. His wife was away from home, taking a short shopping holiday in New York.

On the same day, David Hattersley, a 45-year-old primary-school headteacher, died in hospital after an 8lb mortar-type firework went off in his face during a display watched by hundreds of parents and children on Friday night.

He bought fireworks for the display from a retired vicar who runs a firework company in Cambridgeshire. Last night safety campaigners called for compulsory training for organisers of public firework displays and an urgent revision of "ancient" fireworks legislation.

About 60 per cent of the fireworks on sale in Britain are imported from China and the far East. The trade has increased substantially over the past decade. The firework that killed Timcke was made in Peking. Its trade name is "Grand Celebration" and it is supposed to be fired from a mortar tube. Noel Tobin, director of the National Campaign for Firework Safety, referred to the Chinese fireworks as "bombs" and called for a ban. "We have heard about people buying 100lb fireworks as well as 4ft rockets packed with explosives," he said. "They should not be in the hands of people putting on medium-sized events."

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said proper training should be provided for people running public displays