New Year's blast severs man's hand

By TRAVIS JAMES TRITTEN

keysnews.com

The maintenance supervisor of an Ohio Key RV park lost his hand in a fireworks explosion at midnight on New Year's Eve.

"The victim was handling fireworks along the highway … apparently one of them went off in his hand," said Greg Artman, spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

The explosion, which thundered through the campground as staff and guests rang in the new year, also cut Jack Browning's face, torso and leg, according to Bob Ramsden, general manager of Sunshine Key Camping Resort.

Bystanders tied a tourniquet around Browning's arm and he was flown to Jackson Memorial Hospital at 3 a.m. where he underwent surgery, Ramsden said.

The hospital confirmed that Browning was in the trauma unit Thursday afternoon, but would not reveal his status.

The sheriff's office turned the case over to the county fire marshal, who will investigate what caused the explosion.

"We heard a big bang, louder than the average firecracker," Ramsden said. "It is New Year's Eve so you don't think much of it."

After the explosion, people ran to Ramsden in the park clubhouse and said there had been an accident.

Ramsden came to Browning and saw that his hand was gone. Browning was cut in several places and his body appeared to be burnt.

Browning, who is 57 or 58 years old, has been an employee at the Sunshine Key park since May, and asked for work at the park after coming down from Tampa on vacation.

"He asked if he could help out in any capacity," Ramsden said. "He has been a really good employee, one of the reasons for our success here."

Browning is living at the park with his 81-year-old mother, who is recovering from a serious health problem, he said.

Thursday afternoon, no one had yet told her that her son lost his hand in the blast, Ramsden said.

ttritten@keysnews.com