New Jersey

Video shows blast at NJ holiday party that left man badly hurt by flying shrapnel

One person was seriously hurt

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Security camera footage showed the moment an explosion in a New Jersey park was set off, sending shrapnel flying as far as a football field away — leaving one victim with critical injuries, and landing a father-son duo behind bars.

In the video taken from a distance away, others in the Valley section of Manville can be seen having a holiday barbecue around 8:15 p.m. Saturday. A man can be seen walking in the middle of Cooper Street Park, then light something. As the man runs away, the item he lit starts to smoke.

Immediately after, a large blast sends smoke and metal shrapnel flying in every direction. Metal pieces were spewed as far as 100 yards away, according to authorities.

One homeowner said metal shrapnel exploded through the front of her house, into her bedroom, through a bathroom, out the back of the house, through a gazebo. Other parts went whizzing through the air before lodging in her backyard neighbor's bathroom tub.

"It wasn't a Fourth of July celebratory firework, it was a pipe bomb," said neighbor Dayna Cammacho.

First responders treated a 34-year-old man for lower torso injuries at the scene and airlifted him to a trauma hospital. He had been standing 200 feet away from the blast, but even that much distance couldn't keep him out of harm's way, as he was hit by metal shrapnel.

The scary and potentially life-altering injury forced one woman, a trauma nurse, to go from hosting a high school graduation party for her godson to stepping in to help stop the bleeding.

"It was like a wartime injury, it was horrible," said Cammacho. "If they weren't there, he would have bled out in that field and died."

The person badly injured required multiple surgeries at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

Police arrested Thomas Kaiser, 60, and his 28-year-old son Erich, charging the father and son with aggravated assault and possession of an explosive device.

Investigators say the Kaisers had allegedly tried to set off a signal cannon, a device designed to create a large boom and a smoke cloud when ignited. Instead, the entire metal canister exploded.

Three homes and two vehicles were also said to be damaged.

Thomas and Erich Kaiser were released pending a first appearance hearing in Somerset County Superior Court. Attorneys for the men weren't immediately clear.

It's not Thomas Kaiser's first step into fire. He was arrested in 2019 after bringing a cooler of fireworks to a Jersey Shore bar, forcing a scheduled Labor Day parade to be canceled. Thomas Kaiser pleaded guilty and was sentenced the following year to a year of probation.

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