Pool fan’s smoke bomb eye horror

Blackpool FC season ticket holder Ash Townsend, of Holts Lane in Poulton, was at the Wigan match on Saturday when a smoke bomb was thrown which almost blinded him.  PIC BY ROB LOCK 28-4-2014
Blackpool FC season ticket holder Ash Townsend, of Holts Lane in Poulton, was at the Wigan match on Saturday when a smoke bomb was thrown which almost blinded him. PIC BY ROB LOCK 28-4-2014
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A football fan who feared he had been blinded after being hit in the face by a smoke bomb today called for the supporter who threw it to be tracked down and banned.

Die-hard Seasider Ash Townsend was struck by the canister during Saturday’s Championship clash at Wigan Athletic’s DW 

The bomb – launched from further back in the Blackpool end following 
Matt Gilks’ penalty save –hit the 19-year-old in the face, and also burned a hole through his jumper.

He spent 20 minutes of the match underneath the stand receiving treatment from paramedics.

And he told The Gazette how he feared the missile, which struck him just millimetres from his eye, had caused him permanent damage, describing how he saw “fire” in his vision.

Shocked Ash, from Holts Lane, Poulton, said: “If it had hit me higher I would have been blinded.

“When it hit me I couldn’t really take in what was going on – it really shocked me.

“I turned around and all these stewards were running towards me.

“The fire came all around my eye. They didn’t know if any of it had got in my eye.”

Ash, who is a season ticket holder in the West Stand at Bloomfield Road and also attends around eight or nine away matches every season, had been at the game with two friends.

He managed to return to his seat in order to witness both of Pool’s vital goals in their 2-0 victory.

However, the incident has left him in shock, and he has now called for the perpetrator who launched the smoke bomb to be banned for their actions.

He said: “At away games every now and then there’ll be a smoke bomb set off.

“They’re banned anyway but they’re really dangerous, they’re hazardous to fans. Whoever did it should be banned.”

Tangerines striker Michael Chopra heard about the incident and took to Twitter after the game to offer the victim a signed shirt.

Ash has made himself known to the star, but has yet to hear back from him.

He added: “I’ve not heard anything back from him yet, but I love Michael Chopra.

“He’s a great player.”

The incident is now being investigated by Greater Manchester Police.

A spokesman for the force said: “Greater Manchester Police would like to remind all supporters that pyrotechnics are dangerous and are not welcomed by the majority of other supporters.

“It is an offence to enter a stadium with such an item and those engaging in this behaviour risk prosecution, arrest and a banning order.

“Action will be taken against anyone who lights a pyrotechnic in a stadium.”

This is not the first time the use of flares and smoke bombs by Seasiders fans this season has caused concern for the club.

In October last year - when the Seasiders faced Wigan at home - the club warned they would ban anyone found at Bloomfield Road with flares after several of the dangerous fireworks were recovered before kick off.

Police said they witnessed a group of Wigan supporters letting off a flare as they walked through Lonsdale Road car park ahead of the 12.15pm kick off and a number of others were

Under the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc) Act 1985, it is an offence to attempt to enter a football ground in possession of a flare, smoke bomb or firework

Matt Williams, Blackpool FC secretary, said at the time: “We feel really, really strongly about it. Anyone caught in the ground with flares or smoke grenades will be banned for a very, very long time.

“It is totally unacceptable.

Issues with flares and smoke bombs at the club started last May at the Bolton v Blackpool game, where some Blackpool fans were caught trying to bring flares into the stadium. There was also an incident at the FA Cup match between Fleetwood and Blackpool in 2012.

But the club was forced to re-issue their warning after a flare was a let-off among fans during the Lancashire derby at Blackburn Rovers in February.

Stewards at Ewood Park were forced to move into the Darwen End, which housed the 1,500 Seasiders supporters, during the second half of Pool’s 2-0 defeat when a flare was lit and smoke bombs were let off.

Police later held back a section of the away fans after the full-time whistle following the incident.

At the start of the season in August Policing Minister Damian Green warned football fans that those who were smuggling flares into matches were putting other supporters’ lives at risk.

In May, a 15-year-old boy suffered lung damage from a smoke bomb thrown during Villa’s 2-2 draw at Wigan Athletic, while two women aged 22 and 24 also required medical attention.

And the issue was the subject of national debate after assistant referee David Bryan was also hit in the back of the neck during Aston Villa’s match against Tottenham last October.

Three months earlier a 14-year-old boy was killed by a flare thrown by fans during a South American Libertadores Cup match between San Jose and Corinthians in Orouro, Bolivia.