‘I think I am going to die:’ Firefighter finds courage to speak of tragic fireworks accident

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EUCLID, Ohio – A Euclid Fire Captain says it’s still difficult to think about the July 3, 2016 fireworks accident that could have cost him his life.

“Right after it happened, I remember thinking to myself that I think I am going to die and I don’t even know where I am or what happened,” said Fire Capt. Jay Northup.

Northup, who has spent the last 25 years rescuing and helping others, suddenly found himself in need of assistance.

“We were having a Fourth of July party and like I did in the past, I went behind our shed to set off the fireworks,” Northup explained to Fox 8. “I had all the kids up front by the garage to make sure no one would get hurt, never thinking it would be me instead.”

Northup says he was getting ready to set off the final fireworks of the night, when a couple didn’t go off. He decided to take a closer look.

“As I peeled the paper I was about 12 inches away from the tube and the tube hit me right in the face,” Northup explained.

He said at first he could feel liquid pouring from his eye but couldn’t see anything around him.

“I got on my hands and knees,” Northup recalled. “I heard one of buddies yelling at me, asking if I was OK. I just got hit in the face with a mortar. I’m sure not good. I said no and you probably should get my wife.”

His wife, an emergency room nurse took him to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

“The front of the eye suffered what we call a contusion that deformed the whole front of the eye,” said Dr. Thomas Steinemann, of MetroHealth. Dr. Steinemann said it took time and several medical procedures to help Northup heal.

Northup says he believes if it wasn’t for the medical care he received from Dr. Steinemann and the staff at MetroHealth he would have lost the vision in his eye. He says he is also extremely thankful to his wife, his family and friends, and fellow firefighters.

While it’s difficult for Northup to talk about the incident, he says he believes it’s important to let others know that what happened to him can happen to anyone.

“It’s not worth it,” Northup said. “Go to the professional fireworks shows. Do not think it won’t happen to you. I know I am going to get a lot of razzing at the fire house and I am more than willing to subject myself to any and all of it, as long as I can keep one person from having to go through what I did.”

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