So beautiful | So deadly

Published 12:13 pm Friday, July 3, 2015

Remembering couple who died amid July 4th fireworks

Remembering couple who died amid July 4th fireworks


Sparks of reds, blues and gold rush through the night sky. Fireworks. They mean fun, fantasy and delight.

But not for Trisha Holsinger. For her that night show, no matter how spectacular, will always mean a tragedy she will never forget.

For Holsinger, of South Point, the Fourth of July holiday 2014 was the day her parents died inside their Rome Township home, trapped by a fire allegedly started by illegal fireworks.

“That horrible night still haunts me with scenes of fire trucks, smoke and my poor lifeless parents lying covered in a sheet,” Holsinger stated in a letter recently sent to media outlets.

The deaths of her parents, Leo and Betty Sayre, spurred Holsinger to work to defeat a bill that would have allowed not just the sale, but the use of high-powered fireworks in Ohio — the kind that allegedly started the fire that killed the couple.

Right now Ohio law allows the sale of high-powered fireworks like firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and fountains — the kind that shoot up in the air — from a licensed manufacturer or wholesaler. The buyers must be more than 18 years old and they must take the fireworks out of the state within 48 hours. The only fireworks that can be bought and used in the state aren’t aerial.

Last year, however, Senate Bill 386 could have changed that. The proposed bill would have made it legal to set them off in the state. In December, that bill passed in the Senate but died in the House.

Holsinger had an ally in her local legislator, Rep. Ryan Smith, R-93, who voted against the bill.

“I don’t think we need to legalize fireworks,” Smith said at the time. “With everything that has happened just in this area, I can’t support the fireworks bill.”

Smith said he expects bills that would fully legalize high-powered consumer fireworks to continue to come up in various ways, although his views will not change.

According to Prevent Blindness Ohio, in 2014 there were 10,500 Ohioans treated in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries and 11 fireworks-related deaths. There were 21 structure fires caused by fireworks or an estimated $21,200 in property loss and damages as reported by the state fire marshal’s fire prevention bureau.

As far as fireworks manufacturer William Weimer sees it, however, those statistics don’t translate in aerial fireworks being more dangerous. Weimer is vice president of Phantom Fireworks based in Youngstown.

“The consumer fireworks products are safer today than they have ever been before,” Weimer said in a letter to the editor. “The sale of consumer fireworks can raise some badly needed revenue for the government.

“Since 1994, there has been a 59.3 percent increase in use of fireworks in the U.S. measured by imports that grew from 117 million pounds in 1994 to 186.4 million pounds in 2013. Against this substantial increase in the use of fireworks, the actual number of fireworks-related injuries during the same period dropped by 8.8 percent as reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you measure injuries per 100,000 pounds of fireworks used, during the same period the rate per 100,000 pounds of fireworks used dropped from 10.6 to 6.1 or 42.9 percent.”

In the past 10 years, New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Utah have legalized the sale and use of consumer high-powered fireworks. That is what Weimer wants for Ohio.

“Ohio legislators have the power to change the fireworks laws and permit the regulated sale and use of the full line of consumer fireworks,” according to Weimer. “This is too long overdue.”

If other bills calling for the legalization of the use of consumer high-powered fireworks in Ohio are introduced, Holsinger said she will take up the fight again, all for her parents.

Fireworks displays should be left to the professionals, she said.

“I can bet there won’t be many (fireworks) in my parents’ small neighborhood in Rome this year,” Holsinger wrote. “The whole neighborhood has been affected by this tragedy.”