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‘It changed my life forever’: Man who lost fingers in fireworks disaster tells his story

Two people lost limbs, fingers; Michael Sexton shares his injuries, recovery and lessons learned

SAN ANTONIO – The story went viral three weeks ago on KSAT.com and on social media after a horrific video showed a firework exploding in the hands of two people at the Eisenhauer Flea Market on Jan. 3.

Michael Sexton, 19, was one of those victims. He agreed to meet at the parking lot where his life was forever changed.

“It was difficult at first pulling up,” Sexton said. “It’s kind of like miniature PTSD I want to say. I don’t know, it changed my whole perspective on life.”

It started as a street racing meet up. Sexton said he didn’t know the majority of the people there and had never been to one of the group’s events.

A friend invited him because he has an interest in cars. In an instant, he said, it turned disastrous.

“Since New Years had just passed, everyone had fireworks,” he said. “Some kids as young as 14 years old were lighting them. Everyone was throwing them.”

“Someone asked me for the lighter, simple as that, and it changed my life forever.”

The next morning when television crews arrived at the scene, red firework confetti and puddles of blood were the only remnants of the disaster.

Two men had a firework mortar explode in their hands.

One man, 20, lost both hands instantly. The other victim, Sexton, lost several fingers and may potentially have permanent eyesight damage.

“I lost a third of three fingers,” he explained, showing his bandages on both hands. “Pieces off of my pinky. I broke both hands. I am probably losing some vision in my right eye. It’s going to be a hard year.”

The fire burned off part of the front of his hair and eyebrows. One of his eyes is red where he says his vision is still blurred.

The story went viral on social media after someone posted the video of the gruesome accident. It has since been taken down.

Sexton met with us to tell his story after several negative comments were posted online.

He said the 20-year-old man holding the firework didn’t know it had been previously lit. He turned to Sexton to ask for a lighter.

The next thing he knew, there was an explosion.

Witness captures moments leading up to fireworks disaster at NE Side racing meetup

“I’d rather say my own story than people just make up or believe what happened,” he said. “It was a dumb choice, which it was -- like I didn’t know the firework was previously lit.”

Surgeons told him that until the wounds in his hands heal and they can take out the metal pins, they won’t know if he’ll be able to use his hands again.

“I went to BAMC, the military hospital,” he said. “They told me it looked like something straight out of a combat field. It’s basically a miniature bomb.”

His mother, Susan Gomez, described the call she received from his brothers who were describing the parking lot scene to her over the phone.

“There’s fingers on the floor and they said there was blood gushing out of his eye and he possibly lost his eyeball,” Gomez said. “Definitely the most terrifying moment of my life.”

Sexton said he doesn’t have insurance and lost his job at an automobile service store because of his injury.

He is from California and moved to Texas two years ago. His mother moved her life from California to take care of her son as he takes a year to recover.

He said he had never been around fireworks because the laws in California are so strict regarding fireworks.

Gomez says there needs to be more awareness about the dangers of fireworks and prays it won’t happen to anyone else again.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Gomez said. “My baby is bad enough. If it helped one person from it not happening to them, then it was worth coming out here.”

Sexton is staying positive. He said his pet cat helps him stay happy. He said he is human and accidents happen. He said his dream is to have his own car dealership one day.

“I just want to drive again, even if it takes a year, I want to be able to get on the road again,” he said.

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