'Bombs' blamed for eye injuries Children say recipe came from TV show.

March 22, 1991|By Sue Miller | Sue Miller,Evening Sun Staff

When 11-year-old Kevin Hines arrived by ambulance at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center emergency room, the doctors thought he was going to lose his right eye.

The contents of the eye were spilling out due to a rupture and a cut across the eye. His left eye had potentially blinding chemical burns. Kevin told doctors a "soda pop bottle bomb" exploded in his face outside his East Baltimore home.

"Kevin didn't make the bomb, his friends did," Cathy Hines, 29, his mother, said last night. "His friends had seen 'MacGyver' do it and they wanted to try it. They thought it was exciting. Four of his friends brought the bomb over and were showing it to Kevin. . . . When they gave it to him, it just exploded in his face."

In the ABC-TV show seen on WJZ here, "MacGyver" is a kind of soldier of fortune who travels the world to help people. Often MacGyver, played by actor Richard Dean Anderson, finds himself in dangerous situations and uses his brain to devise ingenious escapes.

Kevin is not the only local victim of a homemade bomb built around a powerful household drain cleaner.

At least six other Baltimore-area adolescent males have suffered potentially serious eye and facial injuries, most in the past six to eight weeks, said Dr. Terrence P. O'Brien, the ocular trauma service director at Hopkins' Wilmer Eye Institute.

Yesterday, Kevin underwent major surgery on his right eye for the second time in a week.

On March 15, Wilmer surgeons had to delicately put back the contents of Kevin's eye and try to close it up. The second surgery required special techniques to remove a "traumatic" cataract that had grown on his right eye, clouding the lens. The cataract resulted when the force of the blast dislodged the lens from its normal position.

His left eye, treated aggressively with special drops and antibiotics to prevent infection, has returned to normal vision.

"We are cautiously optimistic Kevin will maintain some functional vision in his right eye," O'Brien said. "It's too early to say anything more."

Others who got too close to chemical splashes from the exploding bombs suffered caustic injury to vital cells on the surface of their eyes but have escaped serious eye damage, he said.

Several of the victims' mothers have told Hopkins specialists that their children were inspired to create the bombs after watching a recent episode of "MacGyver," shown here on Monday nights at 8 o'clock.

"Our investigation shows that the bomb can be made rather simply, . . ." O'Brien said. "Naturally, the internal pressure results in a rather violent explosion causing a shower of glass projectiles and aerosolized chemical."

In early February, O'Brien called Paramount Studios and Television in Los Angeles, which are affiliated with "MacGyver."

"They denied knowledge of a . . . soda-pop bomb associated with 'MacGyver,' " said O'Brien. "But they promised to conduct an investigation and get back to me. But I have not heard from them."

On Feb. 28, he followed up with a letter. There has been no response. On Tuesday, another letter was sent to Winkler/Rich Productions, the actual producer of the show, by Dr. Allen R. Walker, director of the pediatric emergency room.

"Children do not need the help of 'heroes' in finding ways to hurt each other," he wrote. "Children do need help in avoiding dangerous behaviors and in discovering non-violent resolution to problems. They also require assistance in separating fiction and reality. They must particularly understand that violent actions lead directly to serious injuries."

Walker urged that the actor who plays "MacGyver" should make a public service announcement concerning the danger of such bombs and begin and end each show with a warning that acts depicted in the show are dangerous and should not be attempted at home.

Harry Anderson, in charge of corporate communications for the "MacGyver" producers, said, "We have been unable to find any episode of 'MacGyver' that has a [drain-cleaner] bomb in it. The producers take great pains never to disclose the materials or ingredients 'MacGyver' uses. They do this on purpose, so they can't be duplicated."

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