In China’s Year of the Loong New Year, “Wolf Howl” Fireworks Cause Fatal Tragedy: What Must We Learn?

The tragedy that unfolded with the “Wolf Howl” firework, which contains a small wooden stick that, despite being smoothed, becomes a deadly projectile under the high kinetic energy of the explosive, prompts deep reflection.

In the festive ambiance of the Lunar New Year in the Year of the Loong, intended for family reunions and joyful laughter, a heart-wrenching incident occurred in Weishi County, Kaifeng City, Henan Province. A 10-year-old boy named Lele met with a fatal accident while enjoying the fireworks display.

Reported by Da Wan News, on February 12th, Lele was struck by a “Wolf Howl” firework on the street. Despite exhaustive rescue efforts over five days, which depleted over 200,000 yuan from the family’s savings, Lele succumbed to his injuries. This tragic event plunged his family into profound grief.

As the family passed by the incident location, preparing to cross the zebra crossing, a “Wolf Howl” firework unexpectedly shot out from the crowd, hitting Lele directly in the back of the head and exploded instantly, leaving him lying in a pool of blood.

The family rushed Lele to the hospital, where he underwent three surgeries in a desperate attempt to save his life, spending all their savings in the process. Despite these efforts, they could not save the young boy’s life.

The public became aware of Lele’s tragedy through a TikTok post seeking eyewitnesses, which revealed the extent of the family’s despair. The post mentioned that the child’s grandmother had become mentally disturbed, and his parents had not eaten or drunk for three days, desperately seeking help to find the person responsible for setting off the firework, with promises of a significant reward for any information.

The incident has sparked widespread attention and discussion among netizens, bringing the safety issues related to fireworks back into the public eye.

What kind of firework was it that caused such devastating harm? According to the family’s description in media reports, it was a “Wolf Howl” firework that unexpectedly shot out from the crowd with such velocity that it caught everyone off guard. The firework struck the boy in the back of the head, and upon exploding, caused severe bleeding and unconsciousness.

Netizens have noted that the “Wolf Howl” firework is essentially an oversized version of the “Flying Monkey,” which possesses a significantly greater force. Designed to shoot vertically into the air, it can reach heights comparable to a 20-story building before culminating in a colorful explosion.

Upon further research, it was found that numerous videos online describe the “Wolf Howl” firework exactly as netizens have depicted. Instead of launching vertically, the firework that struck Lele had been launched horizontally from within a crowd, leading to this tragic accident. The “Wolf Howl” contains a small wooden stick that, though flattened, acts like a sharp arrow when propelled by the explosive’s high kinetic energy, contributing to the severity of Lele’s injuries.

Lele’s injury was located at the back of his head, a critical area housing the fourth ventricle and the brainstem—centers vital for life. The combined force of the impact and the explosion likely caused complex trauma, including physical damage, burns, and chemical injuries.

The substantial medical expenses incurred at the hospital, amounting to over 200,000 yuan, ultimately could not reverse the grievous harm done to the child.

The question of accountability for the accident arises. Although Lele’s father reported the incident to the police immediately, the perpetrator has yet to be found. The family expressed their despair, stating, “The firework was supposed to be launched into the sky, not towards people. The county public security bureau is making every effort to investigate the perpetrator. We are all very saddened, and our biggest wish is to find the culprit as soon as possible.”

Some netizens believe this was a case of intentional harm, arguing that the perpetrator should face severe legal penalties. “Every child is the lifeblood of their family. It’s such a tragedy; he was only ten years old, so innocent. The perpetrator must be severely punished!”

If the police are able to identify the culprit, they will undoubtedly be held accountable for their actions.

Legal experts point out that from a criminal law perspective, the perpetrator’s actions could constitute a crime. If they intentionally aimed the dangerous firework at a crowd, their behavior could be considered endangering public safety through dangerous means. If there was no intent and the incident was a result of mishandling, leading the firework to strike Lele, it could still be considered involuntary manslaughter.

According to Article 233 of the Criminal Law, involuntary manslaughter can result in a sentence of three to seven years in prison; lesser cases can lead to no more than three years. Determining whether the act was intentional or accidental will require the police to locate and interrogate the perpetrator.

Furthermore, from the perspective of tort law, regardless of intent, the perpetrator is liable for damages. The Civil Code stipulates that those who cause harm to others through fault must bear tort liability, which includes compensation for medical expenses, nursing care, transportation costs, death compensation, funeral expenses, and solatium.

However, it’s important to note that if the perpetrator’s actions are deemed criminal, Lele’s family can only claim compensation for actual material losses, such as medical and funeral expenses, and not for solatium.

Additionally, if the fireworks were being set off in a managed area, the manager would have a duty to warn. If the perpetrator ignored warnings and launched fireworks into a crowd, they should bear responsibility, and the manager might also have supplementary liability.

The Civil Code states that managers of public places who fail to fulfill their safety obligations, resulting in harm to others, must bear tort liability. If a third party’s actions cause harm, they bear tort liability; if the manager failed to fulfill their safety obligations, they bear corresponding supplementary liability. After assuming supplementary liability, the manager can seek compensation from the third party.

The series of injuries caused by fireworks this Spring Festival has served as a wake-up call. In addition to Lele’s tragedy, several media outlets have reported other incidents of personal injury due to fireworks.

For instance, according to The Paper, in Hunan’s Yongzhou, Mr. Deng’s father was severely injured by a firework the size of a hand grenade after the Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner. The first few fireworks were normal, but the fifth exploded on the spot, causing immediate unconsciousness and serious injuries to his face and head, including eye loss. To date, the family has spent nearly 80,000 to 90,000 yuan on medical treatment, with no response from the fireworks manufacturer.

Cover News also reported an incident in Shandong where children were injured by fireworks. One child, apparently with a specific intention, initially threw a firework near another child, who, frightened, covered it with snow. However, not satisfied, the perpetrator then threw a firework directly at the injured child’s neck, causing third-degree burns.

The perpetrator, being a minor, necessitated negotiation between the parents to resolve the dispute. However, the perpetrator’s mother dismissed the intentional nature of the act, citing busyness during the New Year and showing reluctance to communicate about the subsequent medical expenses. The disagreement over treatment costs led the injured child’s mother to report the incident to the police, who are currently investigating.

Setting off fireworks has always been a cherished tradition of the Spring Festival, greatly missed when banned. However, with the lifting of bans in many places this year, the issue of fireworks safety has once again come to the forefront.

It’s crucial to mention that the government and relevant departments should still enhance the supervision and promotion of fireworks safety, standardize the fireworks market order, and resolutely destroy unqualified fireworks to block the circulation channels of fireworks like “Wolf Howl,” which have a long range and high speed and can easily cause harm to people if out of control.

Moreover, the public should heed the warning, comply with the regulations and safety knowledge of setting off fireworks, and avoid risking their own and others’ lives for momentary pleasure. Parents should also intensify education for their “naughty children” to prevent regrettable accidents from happening.