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Customs investigates dangerous firework duds

The Finnish Customs board has launched a pretrial investigation into imports of allegedly faulty fireworks. Last New Year's celebrations resulted in five firework-related accidents caused by defective rockets.

Beautiful and hazardous: fireworks should only be handled and fired according to safety guidelines. Image: Seppo Sarkkinen / Yle

With just over two weeks to go until the New Year's, last year's firework-related accidents are at the forefront of a case now being investigated by Finnish Customs.

Five people were injured last year by defective rockets, or specifically one type of rocket: it is the "Jumbo" variety of firework that Customs is now busy scrutinising. Explosives offenses and hazardous materials transport misconduct are suspected.

Enforcement Director Hannu Sinkkonen of the Finnish Customs says they are now trying to determine whether the fireworks were up to industry standards at the time they were imported into the country.

kädessä pakkaus ilotulitteita
Last year's Jumbo brand rockets, 8 percent of which were found to be faulty. Image: Tukes
The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) inspected 4,000 Jumbo rockets last spring and found eight percent of them to be defective. Senior Officer Mikko Ojala describes one type of malfunction in detail, explaining how a pyrotechnical effect module came unstuck from the rocket.

"Once lit and wrongly held by hand, the device caused severe injuries to at least five people, including severed fingers," Ojala says.

The import company in charge of the duds commented on the incidents and the ensuing investigation, saying that the rockets were quality controlled as per the law, and that any damage to the products came in transit or at the hands of the consumer.

Fireworks are accompanied by handbooks warning against improper use. If you're looking forward to seeing fireworks this New Year's, remember to consult the rules before firing your rockets.

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