An explosion from a firecracker inside a moving Jeep blew off the driver’s hand early Saturday and scattered debris over half a block in Spokane, prompting initial fears over the man’s intent, police and neighbors said.
Witnesses saw a flash of light from inside the vehicle, a red Jeep with a gray top, as it drove down a residential street, police said.
Donald Wilkes, 61, said the blast rattled his house and woke up everyone inside. He ran outside and found the street filled with smoke and the Jeep stopped just against his 6-foot-tall cedar fence.
“I looked around for something that got hit, but there was nothing,” Wilkes said. “My son reached in to pull the keys out of the ignition and make sure he didn’t go anywhere, and that’s when we saw his hand was missing. It blew it right off at his wrist – they found part of it half a block away.”
Wilkes’ son, 30-year-old Nicholas, and another neighbor applied a tourniquet to the man’s left arm. The man was stocky, about 28 to 30 years old, and coherent. But he wouldn’t answer questions about what he had been doing, Wilkes said.
“All he did was look at my son and say, ‘Oh God, oh God.’ He looked like he was going to pass out,” Wilkes said.
The explosion blew out several of the Jeep’s windows, knocked off its dashboard and splattered blood all over the driver’s side door, he said.
Police and medics arrived within minutes and applied further tourniquets, then brought the man to a hospital, where staff credited the first aid with saving his life.
A bomb squad used a robot to find additional explosives in the Jeep and remained on scene until about 7 a.m. defusing them, Spokane police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms took over the investigation.
Cotton called it an isolated incident and said there was no further threat to the community.
Authorities eventually determined the explosion was caused by an M-1000 firecracker, Cotton said.
An M-1000 is a cylindrical firework, sometimes sold in boxes promising “maximum blast, super loud.”