PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Police are investigating possible charges after a 9-year-old in Kensington lost nearly all her fingers when an improvised explosive device, commonly known as a quarter-stick of dynamite, exploded in her hands over the weekend. Authorities say the girl was home unsupervised with her younger sister when she found an illegal M80 explosive on a mantle in her home on the 1800 block of East Wishart Street, Sunday morning.
Sadly, this is not the only incident. In June, the devices inflicted serious, life-long injuries to at least two other kids in Philadelphia. Police are now working to track down the seller.
Captain Mark Burgmann says the child found the explosive when she was home alone while her mother went to the store and began to handle it. The girl’s younger sister was home but luckily in a separate room.
It’s unclear if the child physically lit the explosive or if handling the device triggered it to detonate.
The explosives are not legally purchased, manufactured or sold in the United States and are very sensitive to heat shock and friction, according to bomb squad Detective Tim Brooks.
“The fuse that is on them, some are instantaneous, meaning the second a flame comes in contact with it they will detonate and there is no stopping it once it does,” Brooks explained. “They are inherently dangerous to posses them and like the Captain said earlier we don’t know whether she just had it in her hand, even by shaking them, since there’s no quality control in the United States on them and they are not even legally imported here we don’t know what the content is. So just simply holding it in your hand, shaking it, banging it on something could denote it.”
An investigation found the girl’s father purchased the improvised explosive device from a man who was selling them on the street Saturday night. He exploded one of the devices and left the other on a mantle inside the home.
Police sources tell Eyewitness News she remains at St. Christopher’s Hospital with “life-altering” injuries that include losing all her fingers on one hand, some of the fingers on the other hand, and burns to her chest, face, eyes, and torso.
Neighbors who heard the explosion told CBS3 that they saw the girl running out of her home missing fingers. The girl was rushed to St. Christopher’s Hospital, where doctors placed her in critical condition.
“Like a bomb, like a bomb,” Margarita Artaga, a witness, said. “I see the girl outside, all the blood all over the body. The hand missing two or three fingers.”
Police are working with the District Attorney’s Office to determine if anyone will face charges.
The girl’s father has been cooperating with police in regards to finding who sold him the explosive but there is a possibility he will face charges that include endangering the welfare of a child, recklessly endangering another person, and risking catastrophe.
While the father refers to the person he bought the explosives from as “a man on the street” officials say they have a few leads into who the seller was.
If you have any information about a suspect selling illegal explosives, contact the Special Victims Unit immediately.
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.