Doctors call for ban on rookies after rise in serious eye injuries at Lewes Bonfire

Doctors are calling for the complete ban on the controversial Deer-Scarer bangers at Lewes Bonfire to prevent serious eye injuries again this year.

Rookies, as they are known, were blamed for the blinding of a man and a host of other serious eye injuries last year.

The call comes from SIMCAS, the immediate medical care charity which is providing several doctors again this year to support the work of St John Ambulance and SECAmb at the Lewes Bonfire celebrations.

For the first time a specialist eye doctor has been called in to treat eye injuries as a direct result of the number and seriousness of eye injuries that happened last year.

In 2011, in Lewes, bangers completely blinded a 58-year-old in one eye and a left a 13-year-old partially sighted after fragments up to 1cm in size had to be removed from their eyes. In addition two other children as well as an adult had serious eye injuries that left them at long-term risk of glaucoma. Eye specialists from the Sussex Eye Hospital found these were all caused by damage from rope-banger deer-scarers.

These devices, not classified as fireworks, are designed to be hung from a slow burning rope to scare away deer and other pests on farmland.

At the Bonfire celebration processions last year they were removed from their fuses, lit and thrown.

Dr Neil Iosson, a GP with SIMCAS, said: “We would like to see these deer-scarers and similar devices banned by Lewes bonfire event organisers and frowned upon by everybody taking part. We love fireworks and the vibrancy of Lewes Bonfire Celebrations and want them to continue safely in the future.”

Ophthalmologist Dr Saul Rajak said: “We would recommend that anyone attending the event, in particular the processions, give serious consideration to wearing good-quality eye protection. It only takes a fraction of a second for eyesight to be ruined permanently by an exploding firework.”

SIMCAS doctors will provide advanced medical care at the event with support from St John Ambulance and SECAmb in a bid to reduce casualties needing hospital treatment.