31-year-old Scranton man dies in fireworks mishap

Jim Lockwood
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

A 31-year-old South Scranton man was killed Saturday in a fireworks mishap, Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland said.

Corey Buckley died in the incident, which occurred at 1:45 p.m. in the area of Cedar Avenue at Walsh Street in the Minooka section.

Buckley was killed instantly when the commercial-grade firework he was attempting to deploy exploded, Rowland said. Scranton police are investigating the incident.

Yellow police tape blocked off the intersection and the incident remained under investigation for several hours afterward.

“It looks like it’s a tragic fireworks accident,” Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano said.

Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti said, “This is a horrific tragedy. I am deeply sorry for the victim’s family and friends.”

The death occurred one day after the mayor had the chief — during the mayor’s weekly virtual town hall on Facebook on Friday — address the issue of fireworks as a growing problem throughout the city.

Their comments focused on the proliferation of fireworks and noise complaints in the city in recent years, after a change in state law in late 2017 made more fireworks legal.

Graziano said he ranks fireworks and ATVs as the top two most-frustrating quality-of-life issue in the city, from the perspective of resident complaints, and of police in terms of enforcement.

Before the 2017 change in state law, “individuals were not able to purchase many of the fireworks that we see today in the state of Pennsylvania,” Graziano said. “So those laws changed, making it much more restrictive for us to enforce the laws, and certainly it’s causing quality of life issues in our neighborhoods.”

“Essentially, most fireworks now are legal … a lot of the aerial fireworks that are going off – firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles – which were previously illegal are now legal in the state of Pennsylvania,” Graziano said.

Fireworks are not supposed to be set off within 150 feet of an occupied structure, and that makes their use illegal in many of the city’s neighborhoods, he said. Fireworks also can’t be used on private property without the permission of the property owner. And they can’t be used on public property. A city ordinance prohibits fireworks on public sidewalks and streets and in city parks, Graziano said.

“It’s a big issue across the state. There’s a lot of talk about hopefully we can get the state watching back and so that we can get back to having some restrictions” to protect neighborhoods, pets and children, he said.

“This is a safety issue,” Cognetti said about fireworks during the virtual town hall. “It’s about being aware that your actions have an impact on others, especially with fireworks. They are very dangerous.”

The mayor said she has talked to city council about passing a resolution that would urge the state to repeal the 2017 law.

Meanwhile, Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown raised similar concerns during a press conference Friday calling on Gov. Tom Wolf and state legislators to repeal or replace the 2017 law that legalized the sale of potent fireworks.

Shooting fireworks is illegal in most densely populated Wilkes-Barre — yet people blast them off nightly without regard and tax emergency services, Brown said. The 2017 law allows for only a maximum $100 fine and a summary offense for illegally setting off fireworks, he said.

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