CALAIS — The father of the man who died in a fireworks accident here on July 4 said the circumstances of the death have been misrepresented.

Reached Monday morning, Russ Staples said his son Devon Staples had been holding the fireworks mortar tube on his head as a joke, thinking that it was a dud and could not ignite.

Somehow, however, a spark ignited the firework, causing the accident that killed his 22-year-old son at about 10 p.m. on the 4th during a celebration at a home on South Street.

Devon Staples was one of several people drinking at the home when the accident took place.

“We’re pretty upset,” said Russ Staples, adding this is the second child he and his wife, Kathleen, have lost. He did not provide details on the death of his first child, saying, “It’s a long story.”

Russ Staples said his cousin has set up a page on, a fundraising website, to raise money to cover funeral expenses and to help the family “get through this time.” More than $1,600 of the $6,000 goal had been raised by about 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

Russ Staples said his family lives week to week and doesn’t have much money.

“This is something you don’t plan for,” he said.

The family plans to donate any leftover funds in an effort to place more controls on the sale of fireworks.

Russ Staples said Monday that by selling fireworks, “you’re just supplying people with bombs. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Over the weekend, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, described the firework that killed Devon Staples as being within a reloadable mortar tube available in consumer fireworks stores around the state.

The fatality was the first reported since fireworks became legal in Maine in March 2012. Fireworks sales in the state through May 2015 totaled $20.3 million, officials have said.

McCausland said Monday the investigation revealed Devon Staples had loaded the firework backward so that when it exploded, it exploded downward onto his skull, rather than upward into the sky.

“There were some other fireworks injuries around the state but nothing of this magnitude,” McCausland said.

State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas confirmed at least eight incidents were reported over the holiday weekend around the state, most involving burns and injuries to eyes and hands.

He said his statistics include only those who are transported to a hospital by an ambulance. They do not include incidents involving people who drove themselves to a hospital or who sought medical care at a clinic or other facility that is not a hospital.

Last year, he said, the total number of reports of fireworks-related injuries for the entire year was 11.

Cody Staples told the New York Daily News that his brother was holding a lighter and accidentally ignited the mortar.

“It was a freak accident,” Cody Staples told the newspaper. “But Devon was not the kind of person who would do something stupid. He was the kind of person who would pretend to do something stupid to make people laugh.”

He told the Daily News, “I was the first one who got there. There was no rushing him to the hospital. There was no Devon left when I got there.”

The Daily News reported that Devon Staples lived in Florida, where he once worked at Walt Disney World as Gaston, a character from the animated movie “Beauty and the Beast.” Cody Staples told that newspaper his brother was currently working as a dog walker.

“He loved making people happy,” Cody Staples said of his brother’s time as a Disney character. “Anyone who would want to give a tribute to Devon should go out and do something nice for someone. Show some love to someone you don’t know. That kid was all about showing people love.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: