Fireworks accident: Aerial starburst shell from 3″ mortar explodes on ground after hitting obstruction!

fireworks accident

I had a rather gnarly experience during Chinese New Year earlier this year – one of the locally produced 3 feet Roman Candle style mortars with 5 x 2” shells exploded barely a meter in front of me!

Yup, this is the precursor to the *badly delayed* annual Chap Goh Meh fireworks and firecrackers round-up of 2013 (post up tomorrow!). I had procrastinated due to the sheer amount of videos I had to upload so I decided to put it up during Hari Raya Aidilfitri – another occasion for fireworks, though not as large scale. /excuses

roman candle mortar

I bought two of the 3” long Roman Candle mortars that shoots out 2” shells and let off the more powerful version – a dual salute (report) with stars. To give you a perspective of how large the aerial shells are, here’s a 2” shell from a reloadable mortar:

2 inch shell

Anything re-loadable above 1.75” is classified 1.3G – requires a licence in the US and is a possession is a felony – they’re not meant for consumers but professionals. However, in Sibu, anything goes – even 3” and 5” display grade shells.

This particular disposable cardboard mortar is not the more intense 3” aerial shells that we launch from a metal mortar tube made by local blacksmiths.

3 inch fireworks shells
3″ fireworks aerial shells (requires mortar – these are display/professional fireworks but can be bought)

The 3” fireworks shells pictured above from my stash are definitely not consumer fireworks. I played with them last time but lost my mortar, one of this exploding 1 meter away would do me serious bodily harm.


I had stupidly tied the 5-shot Roman Candle disposable aerial shells to my automatic gate with shabby nylon. It’s supposed to be half buried (1 ½ feet) into the ground for safe display.

fireworks disaster

What I *didn’t* see was that the mortar was really close to being blocked by a solid metal piece welded to the gate.

How aerial shells work:

  1. Lift charge launches shell into the air
  2. Shell bursts open safely hundreds of feet in the air
  3. Watch and enjoy

shells exploding

What happened:

  1. First shell of the five inside the mortar tube launched
  2. It had such a powerful lift charge the mortar tube shifted
  3. Second shell still left the tube safely and burst in the air
  4. Third shell hit the metal slab and bounced back down and burst one meter away
  5. Videographer (me) shouted “Shit!” in surprise at the force of the blast
  6. Forth shell exploded right in front of me, showering me with flaming debris
  7. I shouted “Fuck!” in a bit of a panic as I saw the mortar canted at an angle towards the house
  8. Fifth and last shell went into the porch and exploded beside a car

Full video of the fireworks accident

The problem with the digicam is that it cuts off the last 3-4 seconds so you can’t really see #8 but the pressure wave was so strong that my dad, who was standing at the door, felt it.

These 2” aerial shells are supposed to explode harmlessly hundreds of feet in the air.

Instead they exploded *right in front of me*.

It wasn’t fun, people and property could very well have been seriously injured/damaged but it’s a good thing nothing bad happened.


I had to use a hammer to knock the 1” stainless steel gate that bent (!!!) at the force of the explosion impact though. -_-

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16 thoughts on “Fireworks accident: Aerial starburst shell from 3″ mortar explodes on ground after hitting obstruction!”

    • The firecrackers here are too expensive! 🙂

      There are cakes too but can’t beat Sibu’s prices. I can hear fireworks going off during Raya too but even in Shah Alam it was mostly the smaller cakes.

    • Unfortunately, that is my gate. 🙂

      I had to use polish to get rid of the stains.

      Yeah, these are serious fireworks, though not as serious as the 3″ aerial shells – those can devastate a ceramic toilet or a desk if lit and slammed inside that enclosed space coz it’s supposed to explode hundreds of feet in the air.

  1. Honestly, I’m completely sick of people letting off fireworks for every occasion, and while I’m glad nobody was hurt in this incident, it’s only a matter of time before there are some serious casualties… My advice is to leave well alone.

    • Yeah mate, it’s a bit of a tradition at my hometown! 🙂

      There have been casualties though, every year, and it’s coz of people not being safe when they go about it.

      Fireworks let off in a safe manner (like in New Zealand where they designate a space or in London, where I watched people do the same at Guy Fawkes Day) would be ideal instead of in housing estates like this.

      I’m still a huge fan of them fireworks though.

    • Yeah it was really close bro! 🙂

      My digicam has a problem of not saving the last few seconds, could be the SD card not being fast enough too but the end was pandemonium!

      Luckily, no one was hurt and nothing was damaged too badly.

      These are pretty awesome fireworks – 2″ format in a disposable 5 shell tube.

    • Yeah mate, it’s supposed to be half buried! 🙂

      I plan to let the next one off that way – half buried in the backyard.

      I used to just hold this in my hand and feel the burn and force of the lift charges – had to turn my face away each time the shells exited. That was in 2002-2005 though, wasn’t that stupid after that.


    • I love fireworks! 🙂

      I’m even thinking about making those 3″ aeriel shells but supplies would be hard to get around here.

      Haha! Yeah, it was noisy here during Raya too but it’s mostly the smaller firecrackers. I noticed the Raya crowd likes salutes (loud firecrackers) more – they make their own or buy them.

    • It’s all good, had a lot of fun! 🙂

      Next time, I’m going to bury this half deep into the ground as per instructions though.


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