December 27, 2012 10:25:50 AM
A Clay County man died Christmas night after sustaining injuries from a fireworks explosion.
Ralph "Bubba" Elliott, 60, died Tuesday night around 10 p.m. at his home off Highway 46 West in Clay County.
Elliott was at his home celebrating Christmas with his family when he apparently went outside alone to shoot fireworks.
Lisa Green, the resident agent in charge of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms field office in Oxford, said Elliott's death appears to be the result of a "self-made improvised explosive device."
"This is a classic example of an untrained individual illegally tampering with explosive devices," she said.
In an apparent attempt to light the fireworks, Elliott held the fireworks close to his body when the lit fuse ignited and exploded.
Elliott died instantly.
"When people who are not professionally trained to handle or play with explosives, the results can be serious injury or death," Green said.
"On the surface, this case appears to be someone manufacturing illegal explosive devices, possibly re-purposing fireworks and/or other items he had obtained. This is the type of thing which can happen when someone takes or obtains legal instruments and tries to re-manufacture them into illegal instruments."
Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott encouraged people to exercise caution when lighting fireworks.
"Read the firework package and instructions carefully," he said. "Never try to modify them and combine them. Shoot them like it's suggested."
Green said home-made explosives in the hands of untrained professionals can be deadly.
"When someone is not trained to handle these items the results can be extremely bad and many times fatal, as in this case," she said.
Scott also encouraged people to use protective eye wear and earplugs and never leave children unattended when using the explosives. He added to never use fireworks when under the influence of alcohol. There were no indications that Elliott had been drinking at the time of the incident.
Scott said Elliott, owner of Elliott Trucking Company, was a well-known, popular figure in Clay County.
"It's very, very sad, I tell you," Scott said. "Very sad."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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