Several children were flown from Tultepec, Mexico, to Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas, for burn treatments following a horrific fireworks market explosion on December 20. That tragedy claimed thirty-four lives and injured more than sixty people, including other children who were in too-critical condition to be relocated to the American burn unit’s pediatrics division.
Shriners issued the following statement instructing caregivers of potential patients on how to speed admittance: “Their physician must contact Shriners Hospitals for Children–Galveston to make a referral and will speak directly to our physicians. After a quick review of the child’s clinical needs, our facility accepts the patient and will initiate planning for medical transport.”
No one is sure where or why the explosions started, but at roughly 2:30 p.m., they thundered through the stalls of the open-air fireworks market with hundreds of people trying to escape. A witness said it felt like new explosions went off every three seconds. Another said, “Everything was catching fire. Everything was exploding . . . The stones were flying, pieces of brick, everything was flying.”
The BBC estimated that only eighty stalls of over 300 were left standing after the event, along with a sign that said, “no smoking.” Terrified family members and survivors wandered the site searching for their missing loved ones as police, firefighters, and the Red Cross worked on the scene.
The market has been plagued by explosions before, with scores of stalls being leveled in 2005, 2006, and 2007, even after they were fortified. It employs roughly 40 percent of local residents. Over the years, the market has been reconfigured with wider spacing between each structure to avoid this sort of tragedy. In fact, a statement released by the Mexico state government had said just a few days prior to the disaster that the San Pablito market in Tultepec was “The safest artificial fireworks market in Latin America.”
Texas regulations for this type of market are extremely strict due to the dangerous nature of fireworks. Our state’s administrative code has thirty-two pages relating to regulations about them, their sale, and their public display.
For vendor stands, it has very specific instructions on heat, light, power sources, and stock storage, especially regarding proximity to the customer space, as well as restrictions on product access by customers—unless they are interacting directly with the vendor. Our law has door requirements for certain larger stands and specifies that if a generator is present, it must be a certain distance from grass, trash, and flammable materials.
The Mexican market may have had these mandates as well. However, no amount of regulation will keep the public safe if individuals don’t live up to their end of the bargain. Failing to follow these guidelines could potentially result in fatal explosions that could make the owner or manager of the property liable for the consequences.
While we don’t yet know the cause of the Tultepec explosion or if anyone will be blamed or prosecuted, under Texas law, people harmed due to someone else’s negligent property conditions can file a personal injury claim. Potential areas to look would not only be the conditions of the stall, but also the area surrounding the market as a whole, the firework makers, and individuals working at or attending the market who may have done something that caused one of the fireworks to ignite.
When a business or another person behaves in a negligent manner or doesn’t take the proper steps required by law, they or their insurance can be made to compensate the victims of terrible accidents like this one.
If you or someone in your family has been harmed by someone else’s wrongdoing, you may have a personal injury case. If you’d like to find out more, call Denena Points, PC for a free consultation to discuss your rights under the law. We help our clients win better insurance settlements and court cases. Contact us by calling 713-807-9500 or by submitting the form at the bottom of this page.