David City man gets 2 years of probation for injuring teens with his homemade fireworks


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OSCEOLA, Nebraska — A 64-year-old David City man has been sentenced to two years of probation on charges stemming from a homemade fireworks explosion that seriously injured a relative and another teenager on Independence Day last year.

Russell Hilger was sentenced on Wednesday in Polk County District Court in Osceola. He'd pleaded no contest to attempted felony assault and six other counts after making a deal with prosecutors, who reduced the felony assault charge.

Hilger set off the device during a family gathering last year at Ernst Lake, which sits a few miles south-southwest of Columbus. Hilger told an investigator that he just wanted to make a big bang, so he put black powder into a 2-foot-long pipe that was an inch in diameter and was welded to a base plate. He stuffed in three towels as he'd been taught once by a rodeo clown.

The blast sent pipe pieces everywhere, hitting five vehicles, penetrating a cabin wall and tearing through a nearby tent.

Inside the tent was 14-year-old Lauren Campbell, who was hit in the abdomen. She lost her spleen and part of her pancreas but has otherwise recovered. Hilger is her great-uncle. Shrapnel also struck Zachary Krenk, of David City, who required stitches.

Hilger didn't face any explosives-related charges, said prosecutors because the steel pipe didn't meet the state law description of a bomb or destructive device.

Information from: Columbus Telegram, http://www.columbustelegram.com

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