It was a tense situation in Birmingham, Alabama, Friday night as streets were blocked off in front of UAB Hospital, because a man was transported by ambulance with a grenade embedded in his leg. It was only after the explosive device was removed by an Army bomb expert after an eight-hour ordeal that authorities learned that it was a smoke grenade, and not an explosive capable of killing everyone around the man.
The drama began earlier on Friday when a 62-year-old gentleman arrived at Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper, reports AL.com. The unnamed male had arrived at the hospital in a private vehicle, telling staff that a 40 mm grenade had gone off in his lap. The New York Post reports that the man “hit a grenade with a hammer.” Jasper paramedic Cameron Padbury, told AL.com that the man told him that he “thought it was a novelty round.”
“He was taking it apart. As he was twisting, the gunpowder ignited and shot into his thigh.”
Originally, the thinking was that it was just shrapnel or the casing that lodged in the man’s leg. The county hospital took x-rays, and learned that whatever it was lodged “close to a lot of arteries.” They applied a pressure bandage to control his bleeding, then called for an ambulance to transport him to UAB hospital’s Level 1 trauma center.
It was while they were en route to Birmingham that everything changed. A BPD bomb tech had been called in to look at the x-rays. It wasn’t shrapnel embedded in the man’s body; it was the actual grenade, the bomb tech said. Plans changed.
By the time the ambulance arrived at UAB at about 11 p.m., a “safe zone” had been set up outside the hospital, with streets blocked off and barricades in place. They were directed “not to come into the ER.” The man had to wait outside in the rescue vehicle for a bomb expert to remove the grenade.
In light of the Ebola scare, there was some concern by residents that this was a possible case of Ebola. However, the situation had the potential to be just as deadly. Dave Hyche, a Birmingham supervisor for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, explained the grave danger that faced the ambulance crew, because “[n]obody knew this wasn’t live.”
“Had it been high explosive, it could have taken that ambulance apart… Removing it could have easily killed everyone there.”
Upon arrival at the hospital, Padbury directed his crew to get to safety after they learned the gravity of the situation. However, the father of three made the choice to stay with his patient, a decision that Hyche says was instrumental in saving the man’s life. Tim Brown, another Regional Paramedic Services employee, joined Padbury in the ambulance for a number of hours. He was already at UAB from a previous run earlier in the evening.
The bomb squad told them that it would be best to keep someone with the man. They needed to keep him from moving around. According to Padbury, they “were told the only reason it didn’t go off was because it didn’t rotate enough times or go enough distance.”
A U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist was brought to Birmingham from Fort Benning, Georgia, escorted by Alabama State troopers. He successfully removed the deeply embedded grenade from the man’s thigh while in the ambulance outside the hospital, finally ending the long ordeal at 6:50 a.m. Saturday, according to Birmingham police spokesman Lt. Sean Edwards.
It was not until the grenade was removed that authorities learned that the device was a practice smoke grenade, not an explosive grenade. They are not typically out on the streets. According to Hyche and the ATF, the man’s home was to be searched.
“He’s given us some indication where he got it, and we’re following up on leads to see if there are any more. We don’t want anybody else getting hurt.”
The term “practice grenades” is somewhat misleading. Hyche says that they are capable of firing and traveling “up to several hundred meters.” Grenades are nothing to toy with. A Connecticut family learned last spring that not all “duds” are duds, either. The Inquisitr reported that a 12-year-old boy brought what he and his mother believed was a dud grenade to school for show-and-tell while the class was studying WWII. The boy’s late grandfather had given it to his mother as a memento from the war, but authorities determined that it was still “capable of detonation” and “could have caused widespread damage within a 20 foot radius.”
The Alabama paramedic who stayed with the man throughout the entire situation, Cameron Padbury, told Al.com that it was only later that the possibility that he “might not have made it home” hit him.
“We deal with weird situations all the time. I don’t think people realize how often paramedics and firefighters put our lives on the line. But that’s part of it, and we know that going in.”
It is not every day that someone shows up at an American hospital to have a grenade or other explosive device removed. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.
[images via Jon Reedemail@example.com and War Relics]