OXFORD, Ohio — It looked like a firecracker. Maybe a smoke bomb, if firework shops sold smoke bombs the size of softballs and wrapped them in aluminum foil. It glinted under a street lamp on East Withrow Street, and on Tuesday evening, 12-year-old Caleb Bogan got off his bike to investigate.
His best friend, who had been riding alongside him, came, too. Bogan would later tell his aunt, Holly Knapp, that the pair spotted a wick protruding from the bundle. They lit it once, but the spark didn’t take.
The second time, it did.
The ensuing explosion cost Bogan his entire left hand, the index finger of his right, part of his chin and several teeth. Nurses were rushing out of nearby McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital within minutes.
“We were sitting at home, and my mom got a phone call,” Knapp said of that night. “They didn’t say what was going on. All they know is that Caleb is being transferred from Oxford to Cincinnati Children’s by helicopter.”
Knapp drove so fast she arrived before aircare, she said. The next time she saw Bogan was in the trauma room, where he was already screaming and crying with fear.
“I thought it was a firecracker,” Knapp recalled him saying. “I swear, I thought it was. Now I don’t have a hand, and I’m not going to be able to ride my bike.”
He won’t — at least not a standard bike, Knapp said. She hopes the family can raise enough money to commission a custom model that can be steered with one hand.
Before that, however, Bogan will spend hours in surgery and up to six weeks in a cast. His family members are doing their best to keep his mind off his worries in the meantime.
“He’s very scared that he’s not going to be able to do things that other kids can do,” Knapp said.
Anyone interested in donating money to the Bogan family can do so at any Fifth Third Bank location, according to Knapp.
The origin of the explosive, which police labeled a “modified pyrotechnic device,” remained unclear by Thursday. Police crew spent the night after the explosion reconstruction the scene with 2D and 3D technologies.
"I'm hoping at some point in time, things start falling together, information starts coming in and gives us a picture of what happened," Lt. Lara Fening said Wednesday. "It's kind of disturbing not to know what happened when someone is that seriously injured."
Fening said one of the boys told a nurse a slightly different story than the one Bogan shared with his aunt. In that account, he had ridden his bike over a cardboard box, and the thing inside exploded unexpectedly.
Bogan’s friend had moderate injuries and had been released from treatment by Thursday night.