Boy emulating TV hero hurt by homemade bomb

March 22, 1991|By Deborah I. Greene

In the March 22 editions of The Sun, a doctor at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center was incorrectly identified in an article about children who injured themselves with home-made bombs. Dr. Allen R. Walker is director of the pediatric emergency room.

The Sun regrets the errors.

At least eight Baltimore-area boys have been seriously hurt in the last five months while playing with bottle bombs made from a household chemical -- a trick they told authorities they learned from watching the "MacGyver" television show.

The latest victim, 11-year-old Kevin Hines, remained hospitalized yesterday, his right eye throbbing with pain under a wad of bandages. It was badly burned last Friday by Drano, a common but potentially deadly household drain cleaner.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Kevin's eye was damaged, perhaps permanently, when he picked up a glass bottle of the caustic cleaner that had been shaken by another boy, and the bottle exploded. "This is a nightmare for us," said Dr. Terrence P. O'Brien, an ophthalmologist at the Johns Hopkins Hospital's Wilmer Eye Institute. He treated Kevin and five other children who suffered serious bottle-bomb injuries.

"MacGyver" is an ABC-TV series featuring a character who uses scientific knowledge to outwit criminals. The show has been blamed in other incidents around the country in which children have fashioned homemade bombs.

"We get enough people with chemical burns from industrial sites and others who rupture their eyes in accidents -- to combine the two is frightening," Dr. O'Brien said.

According to the doctor, Kevin was about to throw the bottle when it exploded in his hand, propelling shards of glass that LTC caused a slit in his right eyeball. His other eye was splashed with the caustic chemical.

In related accidents, another 11-year-old East Baltimore boy was injured three weeks ago when a Drano-filled bottle he was opening exploded. The bottle had been shaken by older children, according to Hopkins officials, who added that the injured youngster had his eyes flushed and wasn't seriously injured.

Not so fortunate was a Harford County boy who was also handling one of the homemade bombs three weeks ago and suffered serious burns, authorities said.

All three boys told authorities they learned to make the bottle bombs after watching an episode of "MacGyver" that originally aired in November and was rerun a few weeks ago.

Producers of the show said they do not recall an episode in which "MacGyver" used a bottle bomb to get out of a tough situation.

"We're concerned about the children, but the producers of the show just don't remember that episode and we would never divulge what the devices are made of, for fear someone would try to duplicate them at home," Paramount Pictures spokesman Harry Anderson said.

Bob Thomas, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, recalled another Maryland accident involving a youngster trying to emulate "MacGyver." "Last year, a kid in Allegany [County] was seriously injured trying to make a bomb after watching "MacGyver," he said.

Dr. Allen R. Walker, director of the Johns Hopkins Children Center, urged producers of the television series to warn viewers that it might be dangerous to imitate MacGyver's feats.

"Children do not need the help of heroes in finding ways to hurt each other," he said.

Meanwhile, Kevin clutched a plastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll yesterday as nurses rolled him on a stretcher to an operating room, where doctors planned to remove a cataract that has grown on his right eye since the accident.

"He will never be able to see as well out of that eye as he does from the other," Dr. O'Brien said. "And yet, he is real fortunate to still have some vision."

Catherine Hines, sitting by her son's hospital bed and showering him with hugs and kisses, found it difficult to look into Kevin's one good eye and then into the bad one.

"He's not going to be the same anymore. I'm so used to looking at both of his eyes," she said. "It's going to really hurt my baby when they tell him he can't see . . . it's going to really hurt me," she said.

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