Ann Marie Tomlinson is known throughout Grand Cayman for her extravagant hair styles whenever a holiday is upon us.
For New Year’s she coiffed her locks with sparklers, a favourite among the fireworks on display to help ring in the New Year.
When she decided to light the sparklers, things went awry.
Today she is suffering with second and third degree burns to her head, hands and back.
She remembers being engulfed in a cloud of smoke and violent slaps to her head as she and others desperately tried to put out the flames.
Members of the Royal Cayman Islands Police, Fire Services and Emergency Medical said they cannot stress enough the dangers of fireworks, yet some people continue to believe they have it under control and nothing can happen.
Despite the end of year being relatively quiet with few fireworks incidents recorded from any of the three Islands, at least two people sought emergency medical aid for burns.
The Health Services Statistics Office reports one person had a fireworks injury to the eye. At Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital Ann Marie received emergency service for second and third degree burns from fireworks.
In a recent Government Information Services release, EMS Supervisor Ralston Dilbert, based at Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac, spoke of the dangers of fireworks.
He explained fireworks’ injuries range in severity from burned fingers and lacerations to serious disability and permanent loss of vision. Most injuries are to the eyes, hands, fingers and face. Some experience persistent hearing loss or tingling in the ears because of the sounds made by the nearby explosions.
“Sparklers considered by many to be safe, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite some clothing. People are often fascinated by the sparkler’s light and do not realise the danger,” he said, adding that fireworks should always be treated with respect and consumption of alcohol should be avoided.
“Responsible people do not run or engage in horseplay while fireworks are being used,” he advised.
In the same release, Senior Divisional Officer Larry Bryan, based at the Gerrard Smith Airport Fire Station on Cayman Brac, stressed that if you intend on a fireworks party or display, you must contact the Fire Department beforehand to get official permission from the chief fire officer.
“This is essential, because it allows the Fire Department to plan ahead and to be aware at all times of where fireworks will be in use, which in turn will allow us to respond that much quicker in the event of a problem,”
According to the Brac fire services not many incidents have been recorded due to constant awareness of the dangers of fireworks. The latest incident involving fireworks on Cayman Brac was about seven years ago during a fireworks event at the Brac Reef Hotel. A man suffered burns during a display.
According to the US Consumer Products Safety Commission, in the spectrum of fireworks dangers, sparklers cause more injuries than rockets, firecrackers and other unknown devices. Parents don’t often realise that sparklers burn at a temperature of 2,000 degrees and that is hot enough to melt some metals.
Ms Tomlinson now realises the dangers and feels remorse for her actions and for those involved.
“This is definitely one stunt I will not try again. I encourage others who are playing around with fireworks during holiday celebrations to be careful because it is very dangerous”
With over 100 sparklers decorating her hair, she looked forward to lighting up and celebrating the New Year. A test run was done the day before where she lit a few sparklers and everything went right.
Around 11am on New Year’s Eve, she lit up to have the effect recorded on video. With a few sparklers lit everything was going fine until the wind blew the fire, igniting all the sparklers, the synthetic hair and her clothes. Along with the camera man they tried to put out the fire but not before she had received extensive burns. She was taken to the Chrissie Tomlinson for treatment.
Just by looking at what had happened to her face and hands, she cries, realising she went too far.
“People on the street are saying I was trying to commit suicide. I am mad for pulling such a stunt and what a foolish thing to do. But that is not so, I just wanted be different and lit the sparklers on my own not realising it would cause so much damage.”
According to Ms Tomlinson, this will not stop her from creating fashionable do’s in the coming year.
The next one planned is a loving effect for Valentine Day.