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Cause of condo explosion attributed to ‘homemade fireworks’

By Staff | Jun 9, 2015

Damage from the May 1 explosion at 3956 Pomodoro Circle.

An explosion at the Isles of Porto Vista condominiums in which a Cape Coral man was critically injured in May was caused by homemade fireworks, police officials said late Monday.

Justin McHenry, 31, sustained “severe, life-threatening injuries when homemade fireworks he was attempting to make in his kitchen, exploded,” a release from the Cape Coral Police Department states. McHenry reportedly told emergency workers he had been attempting to make M-80s.

He has since been released from the hospital.

No criminal charges will be filed in the incident that happened May 1, police said, adding the State Attorney’s Office denied a request for a felony arrest warrant.

“Over the last few weeks, Detectives have been conducting their investigation,” the CCPD release states. ” Copious evidence including testimonial, photographic, physical, and forensic evidence was collected, and lab work completed.”

According to the arrest warrant request submitted to the State Attorney’s Office, “it appears as if Justin was standing over a coffee grinder mixing some types of chemicals. The type of coffee grinder that was located on scene was the type that requires the person operating it to hold it down from the top so it will continue to grind. At some point the grinder exploded and basically turning it into a fragmentation grenade that caused the damage to the apartment and the devastating injuries to Justin.”

Based on a search conducted on his computer, McHenry had obtained information on making fireworks on-line, officials said.

The was no evidence he had any ill intent.

“Further investigation revealed the Justin was viewed as a happy guy who held no grudges against anyone at the time of the incident. He was gainfully employed at Lowes and showed no arrests in the State of Florida. There were no signs of him belonging to subversive groups in his residence or on his computers,” the case report states.

Based on advice from his attorney, McHenry declined comment to police who used evidence obtained and his statement to rescue workers in their application for arrest

to the State Attorney’s Office on May 21 “for the charge of FSS 790.161 (3) Making, possessing, projecting, placing, or discharging any destructive device or attempt to do so,” a first degree felony.

On June 1, the agency received notice that the State Attorney’s Office had denied its application for McHenry’s arrest. In the comments portion of the disposition notice the office states that the “facts do not meet the definition of ‘destructive device’ ” in the applicable Florida Statutes.

“This man was attempting to make fireworks. By all accounts, he had no intent to harm others with them,” said Samantha Syoen, spokesperson for the State Attorney’s Office.

“With this, the Cape Coral Police Department has closed this case, and will not pursue any additional criminal charges,” police officials said.

The investigation began after the Cape Coral Police Department received a call of a possible explosion at 3956 Pomodoro Circle at approximately 6:30 p.m. on May 1.

Police and and Cape Coral Fire Department personnel found McHenry sitting outside on the ground with injuries, “consistent with what might be sustained in an explosion.” Both arms, from elbow down, were detached, an earlier report states. He also had “severe wounds to his abdomen and upper leg areas.”

The apartment had broken windows, doors blown off, and smoke was coming from the apartment. Officials described the damage as “massive,” including the destruction of the kitchen.

CCFD searched but found no one else inside the apartment. Meanwhile, LCEMS arrived and transported McHenry to a local hospital as a Trauma Alert.

Lee County Bomb Squad, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, and FDLE all responded to assist with the investigation.

“We want to thank all of our local, State, and Federal partners who assisted in this investigation,” said Det. Sergeant Dana Coston, police spokesperson, in the statement. “We also want to take this opportunity to thank the men and women of the Cape Coral Police Department for putting together a comprehensive case. We understand and respect the State’s decision not to pursue charges in this case.”

He also urged caution in any use of fireworks

“As we head into the time of year where fireworks are prevalent, we cannot say it strongly or frequently enough: Fireworks can fun…but they can be incredibly dangerous,” Coston said. “No one should EVER attempt to make, modify, or disassemble their own fireworks. Fireworks are designed to burn at incredibly hot temperatures and some are designed to explode. We have included a couple of photos from the scene below showing what can happen when playing with fireworks goes horribly wrong. Leave fireworks to the professionals.”

An explosion at the Isles of Porto Vista condominiums in which a Cape Coral man was critically injured in May was caused by homemade fireworks, police officials said late Monday. Justin McHenry, 31, sustained "severe, life-threatening injuries when homemade fireworks he was attempting to make in his kitchen, exploded," a release from the Cape Coral Police Department states. McHenry reportedly told emergency workers he had been attempting to make M-80s. He has since been released from the hospital.