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These kids' laser tag guns might actually shoot your eye out

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FARMINGTON — Lesha Kirkwood was OK letting her parents give her sons a laser tag set for Christmas because, unlike BB guns, they wouldn't shoot their eyes out.

But within a few minutes of opening the present, 7-year-old Kempton had battery acid in his eye from the Sharper Image brand infrared laser tag gun.

His brother Peyton, 11, was able to get his working right away and had no problems.

But Kempton's wasn't working when he put the batteries in and tried to turn it on, Kirkwood said.

Then he told his mom that the handle was getting hot. He opened the compartment to take the batteries out. One came out with no problem, but he noticed it was hot, too. The other battery seemed stuck — then it burst, squirting battery acid onto his face and into his eyes.

His right eye took the brunt of the explosion, with a little on his skin and left eye, but not as severe.

"It hurt a lot," Kempton said Thursday, his eye now no longer in pain but vision slightly blurry. "It was scary."

He screamed, and his mom immediately rushed him to the sink to rinse his eyes out the best she could. They went to the emergency room to fully flush the acid out.

"I did not expect a Christmas in the ER, and then the next couple hours finding a pharmacy that was open to fill his prescriptions," she said. "(We are) grateful for all those doctors and nurses that work on Christmas."

The Kirkwoods had a follow-up appointment Wednesday with an eye doctor, who determined Kempton had corneal abrasions. His eye should heal fully with no long-term damage if he uses eye drops and ointment for about seven days, Lesha Kirkwood said the doctor told them.

Later that day, Kempton's dad, Jeff Kirkwood, was searching online to see if there were any complaints or recalls on the toy.

He found a news story in San Antonio reporting an almost identical incident that happened the same day.

Maria Rendon's son noticed the blue gun was getting hot — Kempton was also using the blue gun in the set — then she said it smelled like it was burning. She opened the battery compartment in the handle and experienced the same thing: one battery came right out, but the other one was stuck and then squirted black liquid all over her. She was uninjured.

Lesha Kirkwood explains on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, how one of the batteries in an infrared laser tag gun set exploded in her son Kempton's face on Christmas morning at their home in Farmington. (Photo: Steve Griffin, KSL)
Lesha Kirkwood explains on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, how one of the batteries in an infrared laser tag gun set exploded in her son Kempton's face on Christmas morning at their home in Farmington. (Photo: Steve Griffin, KSL)

Rendon used Energizer batteries in the toy, while the Kirkwoods used Kirkland brand batteries from Costco. Because of that, they believe it was an issue with the toy itself, not the battery.

The family contacted Sharper Image, which referred them to the manufacturer Merch Source. A representative from the company responded Thursday and said the Kirkwoods will receive a box for them to return the guns in, and that they will conduct an investigation into why the product malfunctioned.

Merch Source also told Jeff Kirkwood that he can send receipts for medical expenses, which he hopes the company will cover.

Kempton's mom said they don't plan to sue and don't want to "spread fear, because that's not what you want on Christmas."

They just don't want it to happen to any other kids.

"We decided we'd better let other people know, just in case anyone still hasn't opened their gifts, or if someone's playing with it without a parent around and it happens, and they don't know what to do," she said. "If you sense something going wrong … and there's a battery and it's heating up, get as far away from it as possible."


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