He found an M-80 explosive at his grandmother's house, took it to his room to examine it, and began to repeatedly light and extinguish the fuse. During one of these cycles the fuse would not go out, so he jammed the red cardboard tube between his thighs and covered it with his hand to muffle the explosion. This plan was less successful than he had hoped.
Commonly thought to be a quarter stick of dynamite, M80's (according to pyrouniverse.com) actually contain flash powder rather than TNT, and only 1/50 the amount--just under 3 grams. Used by the U.S. Military to simulate grenade explosions, M80's were outlawed in 1966 under the Child Protection Act.
They are not safe enough to be detonated by the average man on the average street, let alone by the average 17-year-old. One loud KABOOM! later, our junior pyrotechnics specialist had lost his right hand, right leg, and--very likely--his right to reproduce, earning him a living Darwin Award.
* As always, my regrets to the boy and his family.
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Submitted by: lbs, Pamela Childs, Galen Grimes, Heather Good, Marshall Fletcher
Reference: WPXI News, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, pittsburghlive.com, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette