By Bruce Schreiner
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A tear gas grenade its owner thought was a toy exploded while a group of children played with it in a southeastern Kentucky home, sending about a dozen people to hospitals, authorities said Tuesday.
Injuries included burning eyes, cuts and chemical irritation to the skin, said David McGill, emergency management coordinator in Harlan County. The gas grenade went off Monday evening in a home in the town of Lynch.
"They're very lucky that someone didn't get hurt worse than they did," McGill said by phone.
Most of the injured were taken to a nearby hospital in Harlan. One child was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Kingsport, Tenn., and was later reported in stable condition.
The grenade belonged to a man who found the device while cleaning out the home of a friend who had died, McGill said. The friend's widow told him he could keep anything that interested him.
"He found this grenade and thought it was a toy," McGill said.
McGill didn't identify the man. The children had the grenade in an upstairs bedroom when it detonated, he said.
"The kids got hold of it someway and were playing with it and it discharged," he said.
Kentucky State Police Sgt. Jeremy Lee said tear gas irritates victims' throats, eyes and skin and causes difficulty in breathing, according to WYMT-TV in Hazard (http://bit.ly/pMXVeB), which first reported the accident.
No charges were immediately filed, but an investigation continues.
McGill said a strong tear gas-like odor wafted outside the home. Powder from the discharged grenade was found on the floor, but the cloud of tear gas had dissipated by the time he arrived.
McGill said he was told an adult was at the home when the grenade exploded but didn't know who it was.
Police at first thought a methamphetamine lab had blown up when alerted to the explosion.
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