Washington teen loses hand in fireworks accident while protecting young kids

When someone lit a sparkler bomb at a July 4 party, Auburn resident Ryli Baumgartner rushed to move the firework away from two young kids nearby.

AUBURN, Wash. — A 19-year-old lost his right hand in a fireworks accident on the Fourth of July trying to prevent two young children from getting hurt. 

“I was one of those horror stories that I was always told about, ‘Stay away from the fireworks, you’ll blow your hand off.’ Quite literally that exactly happened,” said Ryli Baumgartner.

Baumgartner’s story is different. He was at a family friend’s Fourth of July celebration where fireworks were being set off. He said someone there was intoxicated and threw a sparkler bomb.

“As soon as I saw them light it and toss it a few feet in front of them, I was instantly scared and thought as soon as this thing goes off they’re blind or dead,” Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner said two young children ran toward the firework. He then jumped into action and grabbed the lit firework, but it exploded in his hand.

“I went to throw it and as soon as I got there, boom, and I looked down and there was nothing,” Baumgartner said. 

Medics rushed him to Harborview Medical Center where surgeons had to amputate his damaged right hand. He also suffered burns on his body.

“I put myself in front of it because I’d rather it be me than anyone else,” Baumgartner said.

After five days, he is now out of the hospital and just beginning his recovery.

“I have to learn to stretch my arm out fully because if I don’t I could lose full mobility in my arm. It’s going to be a while for my brain to realize there is no hand there,” Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner’s life is now changed forever. Doctors said he can’t work for two months. 

“I called my job, and I’m a lifeguard. I can’t do CPR without a hand. I can’t swim good with one hand,” Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner said he loves to work with his hands and help others, and now the accident is taking a physical and emotional toll.

“I’m at home and everyone is taking care of me and I don’t like that. I want be able to take care of myself, I want to be able to stand up and not hurt. I want to be able to tie my pants and tie my shoes,” Baumgartner said.

He also has a message when it comes for fireworks.

“When it comes down it, it’s not safe and it’s that split second that’s going to change someone’s life,” Baumgartner said.

He said there’s one thing that’s helping him get through the pain.

“Knowing the kids are OK is the only thing keeping me going,” Baumgartner said. He hopes to be able to get prosthetic hand and will have to undergo years of physical therapy.

His family set up an online fundraiser to help with his recovery expenses.

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