(MCT) — Just as they do every year to celebrate the Fourth of July, sisters-in-law Lorena and Kristina Perez went to West Lawn Park on the South Side to watch neighborhood fireworks with their family and friends.
But as a set of four fireworks were launched into the air, one of them instead went straight to the ground, exploding at the feet of the Perez women.
Kristina’s left foot was blown off, according to a relative in their group, and Lorena suffered injuries to her left leg. Both were taken by ambulance to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
“It seemed like it tipped over and came straight down,” said Fabian Carmona, 37, Lorena’s brother. “I don’t think she saw it coming.”
The Chicago Fire Department responded to several fireworks-related injuries, including burns, July 3 and 4 as unauthorized fireworks displays lit up the sky across the city. The Perez women’s injuries were the most serious, said fire department spokesman Lawrence Langford.
Kristina, 32, had her left leg amputated, and she suffered injuries to her right foot and an arm. Lorena, 36, was treated for a fractured leg and burns to her lower extremities, according to fire officials and a relative.
Lorena Perez, 39, is married to Kristina’s brother, Enrico Perez.
Kristina Perez, 32, began screaming when the stray firework hit her. “I went to look around and then I realized she was missing her foot,” Carmona said. “She was yelling, screaming. She was saying, ‘Get an ambulance. Get an ambulance.’ "
Lorena, who celebrated her birthday a day earlier, is missing a large area of tissue on her left leg, and a toe was badly burned, Carmona said.
The fireworks were unsanctioned but are an annual tradition in West Lawn Park, Carmona said. The injuries occurred between 10:30 and 11 p.m.
“We do it every year. We hang out at the park and watch them go up,” Carmona said. “I still can’t believe this happened.”
He said he doubts he’ll go to a fireworks display again. “I don’t want to be near that stuff. I am traumatized right now,” he said.
John Cole, who was watching the fireworks with this 11-year-old son, said he rushed over to the Perez women and wrapped a shirt around Kristina’s leg to try to stop the bleeding. He said other people used the lights from their phones to try to help.
Meanwhile other groups, not realizing what had happened, continued to launch more fireworks at the park near West 66th Street and South Keeler Ave.
“It was horrifying,” Cole, 46, said. “It could have happened to any of us.”
©2013 the Chicago Tribune
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