Teen injured in 2017 accident now advocating for firework safety


PUEBLO, Colo. — A 15-year-old in Pueblo was in a firework accident on July 4, 2017. Now 17 years old, he’s sharing a safety message with young people.

After a firework he was trying to light exploded unexpectedly at close range, Aaden Valdez lost his left eye and three fingers and a thumb on his left hand, leaving only his pinky.

“It took four of my fingers on my left hand and my left eye,” Valdez said.

Valdez was flown from Pueblo to a Denver hospital.

After seven days in the hospital, four surgeries, and six months later, Aaden still made it to state wrestling.

Now nearly two years since the accident, he has created a firework safety campaign so kids his age can know the dangers and take necessary precautions so they don’t get seriously injured as he did.

“I want them to try to stay safe,” Valdez said. “Use precaution every time you light a firework. Wear safety glasses because anything could go wrong, like a firework could tip over, something could get in your eye from the explosion.”

Valdez is passing out packets of coloring books and safety goggles, at Jeff Algien’s Fuse firework tent at the north side Walmart in Pueblo.

He hopes kids can learn early and keep those lessons as they grow up.

“He means a lot to the community,” Algien said. “He’s a good kid. It was really devasting. I think it’s going to send a really powerful message, just to be safe this year, wear the protective glasses, light the fireworks correctly, slow down a little bit. You don’t have to race through the whole bag.”

Algien has known the Valdez family for about eight years.

“He has a lot of people that look up to him,” Algien said. “I look up to him, people his age look up to him.”

He knows Valdez will keep fighting on the wrestling mat and in life.

“He’s a little warrior,” said Algien. “You are fighting in there hand and head. It’s an amazing story, what he’s done, what he’s accomplished, and what he’s going to accomplish. He ain’t done. He’s going to do big things in life.”

His goal is to pass out 3,000 packets this summer so that as many young people as possible get the safety message.

Aaden will also be set up Tuesday at another firework tent in the Bonforte Shopping Center in Pueblo from 5 to 7 p.m.

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