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11-year-old girl 'mistakenly' lights illegal explosive, loses hand and forearm

"She lost her dominant hand. It’s going to take a lot of rebuilding. But she is very resilient," says the girl's aunt.
11-year-old injured by explosive device, loses hand
Posted at 9:34 AM, Jul 02, 2024

An 11-year-old girl suffered “significant injuries” after an illegal device exploded in a Michigan home.

The incident happened last week in the city of River Rouge.

Initially, the incident was thought to have been caused by a firework. However, it instead was an illegal explosive, police said.

Caitlyn was with her twin sister when she mistakenly lit the device, family said. The girls realized it was a mistake and attempted to stop the device in a bathroom sink, police said.

By then, it was too late, and it exploded. Caitlyn’s right hand and forearm needed to be amputated. Her sister had minor cuts and bruises.

“Someone brought dynamite into my home. My daughter didn’t know what it was and lit it. It blew up in her hand. She lost her right hand," Caitlyn's mother Jaminique Conway said. "She’s in high spirits and we’re doing the best we can.”

The girls' aunt, who lives two doors down, provided aid.

“I am the one who tied the tourniquet to keep her from bleeding out,” an emotional Erica Dickerson said. “My first response was to make sure she did not die. Since that day, it’s been a struggle to sleep. She’s very close to me. She is very dear to me.”

Caitlyn has been released from the hospital since having surgery.

Erica Dickerson, left, provided aid to her niece after she was injured.

“She’s very much our family. These girls come down to our house almost every day," Dickerson said. "She’s rebuilding her life. She lost her dominant hand. It’s going to take a lot of rebuilding. But she is very resilient. She's in good spirits but she's going to have to go through a lot of therapy. This mother almost lost two children. This story could have went a lot different.”

The explosive damaged both the interior and exterior of the home, deeming it uninhabitable, police said.

Police confirmed that the device was not a commercial firework and was an illegal explosive. Remaining material from the explosive is being tested by the Michigan State Police Laboratory.

Investigators said the device belonged to the girls’ grandfather, who “left the device in plain view and unsupervised.” He was arrested but the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office did not press charges against him.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family by River Rouge Police to help pay for medical expenses, new housing and other needs to help them recover.

“Our thoughts are with the twin sisters and their family during this difficult time. We urge the public to exercise caution and follow all safety guidelines when handling any type of explosive device. Together, we can prevent such tragic accidents from happening in the future,” the police department said in a statement.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call police at 313-842-8700.

This story was originally published by Simon Shaykhet at Scripps News Detroit.