Families in Derry have spoken of their horror after gangs of youths deliberately threw fireworks at them and their children this week.
Residents in Creggan have warned that a tragedy is now inevitable if something is not done to stop gangs armed with illegally purchased fireworks running riot across the estate.
Local people have described children being left traumatised after pedestrians, cars and businesses were targeted by these gangs in and around Central Drive and neighbouring streets.
There have been reports of the youths lobbing fireworks at a man with an oxygen tank; youths firing them inside shops and targeting a youth club. Several cars have been hit, while one local woman has spoken of how the fireworks narrowly missed her and the newborn grandchild she was pushing in a pram .
Another local woman told the ‘Journal’ yesterday that her family narrowly avoided injury in two separate attacks just hours apart on Wednesday night.
She said: “My husband and my son, who is six years of age, were playing football in the Creggan pitches between 6pm and 7pm when youths started throwing fireworks in at them and they had to leave.
“Then last night about 8pm I was at the Creggan shops and St. Mary’s Youth Club lifting my and my friends’ children when they threw a firework in front of us. I had to break and when I did they threw another one under the car. The children were absolutely petrified. My eight-years-old child was really, really upset and had to be consoled.”
The woman had a six-months-old child she was baby-sitting in the car at the time.
“If my car had caught fire, there would have been three families dealing with a very serious situation,” she said.
“There are parents on Facebook saying they are only having fun. I really don’t see the funny side of it. They are deliberately doing this and looking for something really bad to happen and somebody is going to get seriously hurt.
“These were children as young as 12, wee girls, wee boys and there must have been about 40 or 50 of them. They were trying to stop cars, throwing fireworks at them. They were running in and out of the Corn Beef Tin throwing fireworks through the doors.
“This is going on a couple of weeks now and it is every day. Someone is selling these fireworks to children illegally. That’s the scary part. It is below the belt.”
Another Creggan resident has described how she was pushing her newborn grandchild in a pram when a firework landed a short distance away.
The woman said that people were able to identify where the youths were letting off the flare-type fireworks by the plumes of thick smoke emanating from different parts of the estate.
“The smoke coming off it is like CS gas,” she claimed. “If one of these goes off in front of a car it is going to block someone’s view. It was so bad at the football pitch you couldn’t see the people playing at one point. Someone must know who is selling them. If this doesn’t stop somebody is going to get hurt. Someone’s clothes could easily catch fire.”
A third local woman described how a firework hit the car she was travelling in with her partner and her 18-months old child. “It’s madness,” she said.
“We were sitting outside the ‘bookie’s just after 6pm and my fella just came out and sat in the car. I didn’t even get a chance to start the car. The firework bounced off the bonnet of another car and hit the windscreen right beside where my one and half year old was sitting.
“My boyfriend was very angry and he got out of the car and they all ran off.
“My dog was in the car as well and she was terrified. She was trying to get under the front seat. I was shaken up myself. They have no respect for anyone.”
The woman added that the incident has left her frightened to return to the area. “Where are their parents?” she asked.
Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly said there had been several near misses in the area. “It’s putting people off using the shops in the area and losing shop owners valuable trade,” Colr. Donnelly said.
“I’m calling on parents to ensure their children are not involved and there is also the danger of a young person involved being badly hurt using these fireworks. Anyone selling fireworks to children bears the responsibility for any hurt or damage caused.”
Sinn Fein Colr. Colly Kelly, meanwhile, said fireworks have also been thrown into the youth club which set off the alarms, and into the local shops. “This is totally unacceptable,” he said.
“Whoever is selling these fireworks within our community is as bad as drug dealers. T hey are selling misery into our community and it’s only a matter of time before someone is badly hurt or maimed by either using or a consequence of a firework.”