Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Fireworks bomb injures river guide


July 6, 2017 | View PDF

A river guide suffered severe facial injuries after approaching a homemade “sparkler bomb” while shooting off fireworks at Jones Point Monday night.

Kris Rath, 27, of Sumner, Wash. reportedly also lost a section of his calf in the explosion. He was listed in fair condition at the intensive care unit of Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center Wednesday.

According to Tim Holm, Haines Borough EMT/firefighter, a dozen or more guides and friends were at the end of Sawmill Creek Road around 10:15 p.m., when someone built the bomb, wrapping together a large number of sparklers and extending a single sparkler out the top as a fuse.

Witnesses said the lit bomb fell off a mannequin it had been set on, and Rath then approached it, Holm said. “By the time he put his hands on it, it exploded. From the damage, it looks like he was hunched over it.”

Responding EMTs immediately called for a medevac, but because air ambulances weren’t available, help had to wait until a Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched from Sitka and a flight nurse was picked up in Juneau.

Rath was stabilized at the Haines clinic until the helicopter arrived. It left Haines for Seattle’s Harborview at 2 a.m.

Holm said by the size of the explosion, it appears a large number of sparklers were bound together. “Once (the fuse) gets down to the ball of sparklers, the resulting, massive heat and gas expansion basically creates a bomb.”

Sunglasses and a Carhartt jacket Rath was wearing likely saved him from more serious harm, Holm said.

Internet how-to sites advise making the bomb with 30 sparklers but Holm said the extent of damage suggested to him that more than that were used. “He was not thinking straight when he made the damn thing,” Holm said.

The how-to sites advise extreme caution around the bombs, and recommend sticking the base of the sparklers into the ground before lighting. “Remember to run because the shock wave is intense and there may be shrapnel thrown into the air,” says

“Light the fuse sparkler and get to a safety place,” said

According to his Facebook page, Rath is a college graduate who started work for Alaska Mountain Guides and Chilkat Guides in 2014.

Alaska Mountain Guides owner Sean Gaffney did not return messages left by the CVN Wednesday afternoon.


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