Shot in the mouth with a mortar: Fireworks victim’s story of courage and luck

LMPD's bomb unit had to help with an explosive lodged in the man's mouth.
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 5:02 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2021 at 7:42 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Steven Geary stood on his front porch and pointed at what appeared to be a peaceful cul-de-sac in front of his Fairdale home. The spot is a constant reminder of where he almost lost his life.

While setting off fireworks in 2018, a mortar fell over and fired a rocket directly into Geary’s mouth.”I knew I got hit in the face and I could feel the blood,” Geary said softly, “and I could feel something was wrong. And I couldn’t really talk.”

But the copious amount of blood and gaping wound on his face was just the most obvious sign of Geary’s distress.

His neighbor, Gerry Savage, a Vietnam veteran, and former Army medic came to his aid and said he had never seen a wound like it outside of combat.

Hidden in the damaged tissue, Savage found a piece of the projectile that hit Geary, a golf-ball-sized explosive.

It was the part of the device that was supposed to blow up in the air, showering the sky with sparkling colors.”It was lodged in…the corner of his mouth right up here in the corner of his jaw,” Savage said. “(I) kept applying a whole lot of wet washrags on it because I didn’t want it to go off.”

Savage applied pressure to stop the bleeding and wisely avoided touching the explosive.

Barely conscious at the time, Geary was unaware of what was in his mouth.

(Story continues below photo)

The victim had a firework lodged in his mouth that could have gone off anytime.
The victim had a firework lodged in his mouth that could have gone off anytime.(WAVE)

“That would have probably freaked me out a lot worse,” Geary said, “because that still could have gone off at any time, It would have been bad for both of us,” Savage said.

Geary’s luck continued into the long ambulance ride from Fairdale to UofL, where plastic surgeon Dr. Jarrod Little sought an unusual consultation.

“I had to call Louisville Metro Police and they patched me in with the bomb unit,” Dr. Little said.

The instructions were to protect Geary with layers of wet blankets and have fire extinguishers handy if the device exploded.

Without any protection for himself, Dr. Little carefully removed the explosive.”He needed to have it taken out,” Little said. “It was a life-threatening situation. So, you do what you have to do.”That night was the beginning of a series of surgeries, skin and bone graphs, and long and painful recovery.

Geary’s flesh was ripped, his teeth and bones broken, and he suffered nerve damage.

3 years later, the scars are still noticeable and he said there is still more work to do. But looks back on the memories with gratitude.”I’m honestly glad it hit me and nobody else,” Geary said, “Because of my family and friends here and neighbors, I would hate for it to happen to somebody else.”

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