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Crash causes fireworks to explode inside car in St. Paul, hindering aid to driver who died

St. Paul man recounts moment car crashed, setting off fireworks inside
St. Paul man recounts moment car crashed, setting off fireworks inside 01:55

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A single-vehicle crash in St. Paul turned explosive Sunday night when fireworks inside the car ignited, hindering aid to the driver, who was killed.

The crash happened near Wilson Avenue and Howard Street around 9 p.m., the St. Paul Police Department said.

A driver who was likely speeding left the road and hit a tree and light pole, causing the car to catch fire, police said. Then, fireworks inside the car began to explode, making it hard to reach the driver.

No other people or vehicles were involved. The deceased man has not been publicly identified. The crash is being investigated.

Motorist dies in St. Paul after fiery crash ignites fireworks inside car 00:48

Witness recounts deadly crash

Fireworks and debris litter the ground outside Baba Tamba's St. Paul apartment. He was home Sunday night and heard the crash outside. Alongside another neighbor, they rushed out to try to help the driver after the car burst into flames.

"I went and grabbed the fire extinguisher, and he was using the pole right there to bust the glass and the glass wouldn't bust because it was engulfed in flames," Tamba said. 

Police said the driver was the only one in the car, and he didn't survive. The driver's cousin, Brittany Roberts, visited the crash site Monday. She identified him as 22-year-old Robert Jones, a young father, known by many as B.J.

"He's a great person. That's the best way to sum it up. So lively, so full of love, and laughter," Roberts said.

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash, but said speed was a factor. 

"We are very thankful people want to run in and help. But it can be very dangerous in that situation," St. Paul Police Sgt. Mike Ernster said. 

Ernster said others could have been injured in the fireworks explosion. 

"In this case, it caused everybody to stay away from the vehicle, and they weren't able to help the driver in time," he said.

Tamba said it's been difficult knowing the driver didn't survive despite their efforts.

"It's really hard for me. I'm still dealing with stuff from the military and not being able to save this fellow really made me feel bad last night," he said.

Many fireworks are not legal in Minnesota

The better portion of fireworks are not actually legal in Minnesota, though often people cross over into Wisconsin to purchase them.

The following firework types are legal in Minnesota:

  • Wire or wood sparklers: No more than 100 grams of mixture per item.
  • Other sparkling items: Nonexplosive and nonaerial and contain 75 grams or less of chemical mixture per tube or a total of 500 grams or less for multiple tubes and include: fountains, ground spinners, illuminating torch, wheel, flash strobe.
  • Novelty items: Snakes and glow worms, smoke devices or trick noisemakers which include paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers, snappers and drop pops, each consisting of not more than twenty-five hundredths grains of explosive mixture. 

Essentially, if the fireworks stay on the ground and don't explode, they're legal in Minnesota.

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