Tragedy leads to safety awareness

The piece of paper little Antoine picked up was a cap for a starting pistol.


On Tuesday, 29 January, Antoine Duvivier (7) picked up a piece of paper and tore it. Upon tearing it the paper burned his fingers. His parents rushed him to the emergency room and the doctor saw to his burn wounds.
The piece of paper little Antoine picked up was a cap for a starting pistol. A starting pistol is a blank handgun that is used to set off athletes at athletics meets. “Cap guns get their name from the small discs of shock-sensitive explosive compounds (roughly 1.4 to 1.6 millimetres) that provide the noise and smoke, effectively the same as the Maynard tape primer and percussion caps used in real firearms of the mid to late 1800s but usually smaller and made from cheap plastic or paper. Some are arranged in plastic rings of eight or twelve. There are also single caps, roll caps (of 50 to 500), disk caps and cap strips all of which are actually extremely small versions of percussion fireworks. Armstrong’s mixture is often used today as the explosive, but previously the tiny powder charge was a simple mixture of potassium perchlorate, sulphur, and antimony sulphide sandwiched between two paper layers holding in the gases long enough to give a sound report when the cap is struck.”
When the Bulletin investigated the incident, it was clear that these caps (little pieces of paper) were lying all over the grass at the points on the track where the starting points of the different races were. Children are intuitive and they do like to pick things up and investigate and that is exactly what happened when Antoine picked it up. These little caps may look innocent, but they are very dangerous.
This incident could have happened to anyone, but there is an important lesson to learn from this. Once the starting gun’s cap has been shot, have a dustbin or a bag at hand to dispose of the faulty ones and the used caps.
Antoine’s fingers were burnt and thankfully will recover fully. Fortunately, the dangers of starting gun caps have been exposed and this lesson will benefit all through improved management of the spent or defective caps in future meets.
Sources: – Ané Prinsloo


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