GRAPHIC: Aussie party where people are maimed
WARNING: This article contains graphic images
A YOUNG Australian man inserts a spinning "flying bee" winged firework into his rectum and lights the fuse.
Moments later he's rushed to a hospital with multiple injuries to his body.
The cracker burned his backside, and his index, middle, and ring fingers on his right hand - which he used to pull the firework out of his body.
"I had a few lads up from Queensland and I had to put on a good show," Alex Bowden, then 23, told the NT News from his Royal Darwin Hospital bed in 2012.
It was Territory Day after all - an annual party like no other where anyone aged over 18 can legally buy and let off fireworks in the Northern Territory of Australia on July 1.
Also known as 'Cracker Night', it's the only event of its kind in the country. Some would say, there's good reason for that. The celebrations, which mark the Northern Territory's self-governance from the Commonwealth, are tonight set to go off with their biggest bang yet to mark the 40th anniversary.
That's a notion which instils excitement and fear into those who have experienced the war-zone-like event that is Cracker Night in the NT, depending on which side of the fence they sit.
Hundreds of tonnes of fireworks have been imported into the NT to be sold between 9am and 9pm today as revellers gear up to make the most of the opportunity.
Everywhere from fast-food chains to swimming pool shops and corner stores display signs which read "fireworks for sale" in their windows on Territory Day each year.
Previously vacant shopfronts, car parks, factories and offices also become pop-up fireworks shops with banners boasting of the "loudest" crackers and discounts offered to defence personnel.
From the moment the sellers' doors swing open, locals, tourists and visitors flock to buy explosives - including the likes of 'Bomb Squad, Ball Breaker, Nuc' Em' and Dynamite'.
They don't all come cheap with large variety packs of fireworks selling for several hundred dollars each. Individual crackers can be purchased for as little as $15 each. But for many with a penchant for blowing stuff up, the experience is priceless.
While thousands of families and other spectators flock to public fireworks displays held at various key locations across the NT, including Darwin's Mindil Beach and Nightcliff foreshore, Gove and Alice Springs - it's the ubiquitous private shows in non-designated areas where those who go rogue set this event apart from the rest.
Most members of the public are responsible with their purchased explosives - usually reserved only for qualified pyrotechnicians with a Shotfiring Licence and a fireworks display permit - but not everyone follows suit. Subsequently, things can - and do - go wrong. Every year, dozens of bystanders are forced to dodge wayward or dud fireworks that "can explode and maim" as they're let off in every direction. Some are lucky enough to avoid being struck. Others are not.
There have been countless incidents where fireworks were illegally set off from balconies, driveways, beaches, nature strips, parks and on city and suburban streets during the celebrations. Disturbingly, some have even been fired out of moving cars after falling into the wrong hands in previous years.
Even in controlled zones, bystanders are often hit by fireworks let off legally by members of the public. But in uncontrolled zones, the risk of injury or even death is much higher.
Darwin local Bianca Stubbs, now 21, was 13 years old when she watched a firecracker land in her baby brother's pram and explode.
"My brother Brodie was in his pram about 70 to 100m away from an area were fireworks were being lit when we suddenly heard a big bang," Ms Stubbs said.
She remembers diving to the ground and hit in the leg by a live firecracker.
"I wasn't hurt, but then I heard a bloodcurdling cry," she said.
The cracker landed on Brodie, became wedged under his arm and back, and melted the pram straps.
"We administered first aid and St John Ambulance arrived within minutes to take Brodie to hospital," Ms Stubbs said.
Brodie had to undergo several surgeries for his serious injuries and endured eight months of ongoing burns treatment. He still carries scars on his back and arm from the 2009 incident.
"All safety precautions were in place that day, but freak accidents do happen," Ms Stubbs said.
It's a reality that local hospitals brace for year in and year out.
In the 10 years to 2016, 197 people have been admitted to hospital with firework-related injuries including severe burns, lacerations, visual impairment, hearing loss and even broken bones.
Of these, more than half were children under 16 and the majority of injuries were avoidable. Centre for Disease Control Acting Director Dr Charles Douglas previously said bystanders who were not directly involved in the lighting of fireworks were injured in more than one third of cases.
In 2015, Darwin woman Trish Rayment, saved a young girl's life by taking a rogue cracker to the chest and arm.
Ms Rayment pushed a little girl out of the way when she saw a firework going straight for her head at an outdoor dining venue in the capital city. The cracker hit Ms Rayment in the chest and arm - which later required skin grafts - before also striking the girl's left shoulder. In 2016, Darwin local Shane Kennedy took a video of a man standing on a median strip near the CBD and shooting fireworks at a balcony. Mr Kennedy told the NT News he believed the shot was deliberate and that there was a couple standing on the balcony at the time.
Both the Country Liberal Party and Labor support Territory Day firework sales and want the tradition to continue.
There has been a long-running push by residents who support Cracker Night to make the occasion a public holiday. Critics want the event banned, citing noise complaints and safety risks. Scrub fires and burns are an annual occurrence. Firefighters were called out an astonishing 280 times in Darwin alone on Territory Day in 2016.
NT Police Duty Superintendent Shaun Gill this week warned people not to drink alcohol while lighting crackers.
"By nature of fireworks, they do explode," he said.
"So particularly if you have been drinking and are not as fast as you were, then we encourage you not to drink and just be safe when you're doing it. Have a safe area to do it and make sure nobody else is too close."
Other safety warnings advise anyone hit by a firecracker to "cool burns for 20 minutes under running water, cover them with cling wrap and call 000".
"Dud fireworks can still explode and maim - leave them for 15 minutes and then douse with water," one warning message read.
"Never point, hold or throw lit fireworks and don't hold more than one lit sparkler at a time."
Building managers leave notes in residents' letter boxes asking them not to detonate explosive from their balconies, yards or streets.
There are strict rules in places as to exactly when and where people can use fireworks, starting in the evening. But the reality is that explosions can usually be heard before they can be seen as crackers are let off in daylight. Those who set off fireworks outside designated areas and times risk a fine of more than $1200.
THE MORNING AFTER
As a new day breaks, a thick haze of firework smoke engulfs the towns and cities that took part in Cracker Night celebrations just hours before. Pet owners take to the fuming streets and social media in search for their animals that made getaways amid loud explosions and bright lights the night before. Used fireworks litter the streets, coastlines and other public areas as council workers move in to clean up. It's a party that never really stops with leftover crackers commonly let off around Darwin in the days and months that follow. Until the next Territory Day rolls around and the party starts all over again.