Baldwin City girl injured at Maple Leaf Festival when fire-suppressant canister activates
An 8-year-old girl who was playing in the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle at the Maple Leaf Festival Sunday received first-degree burns when at least one fire suppressant canister discharged and sprayed her, officials told the Lawrence Journal-World.
The Kansas Adjutant General is investigating the accident and trying to determine the cause of the explosion of one or possibly two canisters of Halon gas, said Ben Bauman, public affairs director.
It is unclear why the canisters discharged.
“It was unfortunate,” Bauman said. “We are at events to show people how we serve and protect, and when these things happen, it is exactly the opposite of what we want to be showing.”
The burns were on the girl's chest and neck, her mother Wendy Armenta told the Baldwin City Signal, which is owned by The World Company, which also owns the Journal-World.
Armenta initially declined an offer from the Lawrence-Douglas County emergency medical responders to take her daughter to the hospital. But later, she noticed how red her daughter's skin was and took her to Children's Mercy Hospital for treatment.
She was treated for the burns and a cut on her head that required two or three stitches and released, Armenta said.
A photograph of the girl on Facebook shows what looks to be a bad sunburn across her chest and neck.
Halon is a liquified, compressed gas that stops the spread of fire and is so cold it can cause frostbite, said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, section chief of toxicology at Children's Mercy.
There are several types of Halon gas, and they all can be irritating to the skin, Lowry said.
The EPA banned the manufacture of Halon gas in 1994 because of the effects on the Earth's ozone, according to the EPA's online regulatory program guidance. But the EPA does allow the use of certain existing stores of Halon blends.
It was unclear Wednesday what type of Halon gas was in the three canisters in the vehicle.
The canisters are required to be in the vehicle to put out electrical fires, Bauman said.
The Lawrence 2nd Combined Arms Battalion 137th Infantry Regiment has troops who oversee a display of military equipment at the festival every year.
Early Saturday, the Douglas County Sheriff's Department escorted the Bradley vehicle from Lawrence to Baldwin City, where it was used in the Maple Leaf parade.
The Bradley has two compartments, the front hatch where the driver sits and the back compartment where troops can ride.
Armenta said she and her daughter went to the festival after church Sunday.
Armenta was standing next to the Bradley vehicle when she heard two explosions and saw her daughter being carried out from the back of the vehicle through a haze of smoke.
The girl was screaming, her mother said.
Military personnel and medical responders calmed the girl. One guardsman asked her if she had pushed a button on the canister, Armenta said.
After declining transportation to the hospital, Armenta took her daughter to her adult's son's home, which was nearby, and bathed her. At that point she took her to the hospital.
Bauman said the vehicle was powered down while it was on display at the festival over the weekend. “We are not sure why this canister discharged,” Bauman said. “There was no obvious reason why it should have discharged. It shouldn't have happened by all normal operations.”
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