Meteorologist Thrives After Losing Eye in Fireworks Accident

July 01, 2019 9:59 PM

TV Weatherman Dave Rexroth stays active, independent despite blast that left him with single vision

TV weatherman Dave Rexroth with his family in 2014
TV weatherman Dave Rexroth, at left, lost an eye in a fireworks accident while celebrating July 4 with his family in 2014.

Since the loss of his left eye while celebrating Fourth of July with his family, Metro Detroit TV weatherman Dave Rexroth has taken on a new role in the lives of those who watch him.

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For those facing the uncertainty and frustration of losing an eye to disease or injury, he offers hope that life with single vision can still be active and independent.

“There was a period of trauma and recovery, both physically, mentally and spiritually, but things are just the same as they’ve always been,” he says.

Providing for his family was a main concern after the fireworks blast that knocked him to the ground and left him in shock in Iowa City, Iowa in 2014.

Fast forward and he safely drives himself and is working into a second decade as chief meteorologist at WXYZ-TV Channel 7, coordinating live weather broadcasts.

His outcome is what he hopes for others. He calls it “his duty” to send inspiring cards and take phone calls to offer support and the accident has given the married father of three a unique perspective about fireworks.

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Rexroth says he’s been approached by fireworks opponents from multiple states hoping he’ll be the face of their campaigns. But he’s not interested.

“I don’t want to be that person to tell people what they can and cannot do,” he explains of using fireworks. “I don’t specifically tell people they should not, but I tell people I never will again and my family never will again.” 

Note from Dave Rexroth in support of others wit eye injuries
Rexroth now provides notes of support to others with eye injuries.

Risky thrill

Fireworks continue to be a part of Independence Day celebrations but under a new Michigan law there are fewer days of revelry.

Residents can shoot fireworks June 29-July 5 until 11:45 p.m. each evening, and on Labor Weekend, but experts urge celebrating safely.

Christine Nelson, M.D., chief of oculoplastic surgery at University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, says fireworks are a risky thrill best left to the professionals.

Fireworks-related eye injuries rose from 700 in 2016 to 1,200 in 2017, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Those injuries included ruptured eyeballs and damaged corneas and retinas. Numbers show males are injured more often than females.

On average, 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday, according to the CPSC

Most injuries are caused by legal fireworks, including sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

For Rexroth, walking back to check on a firework that wasn’t igniting proved to be a mistake.

“I went to check on it, and it went off in my face,” he says.

Dave Rexroth in bed, injured eye covered by an eye patch
Rexroth recovers from the injury in 2014.

As a result, he now wears a prosthetic eye. He stays connected to specialists at the University of Iowa hospital who performed emergency surgeries to save his eye.

He has yearly checkups with Nelson too at Kellogg Eye Center to maintain his vision and eye health.

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“I wear glasses to protect my remaining eye and the one lens has a bifocal,” says Rexroth, 53.

“It took some time to relearn some bits of the job, like pointing on the green screen,” he says of the chroma key technology that provides a visual of statewide and nationwide weather patterns.

Close-up work is challenging because of a limited depth of vision.

He was back behind the wheel within a month of the injury, but with new techniques: he points his nose to the left side of windshield to see oncoming lanes better and improve his field of vision.

“I’m extremely diligent about checking my blind spot, so to speak, and amazingly I’m a more efficient and safer driver,” he says.

His work ethic remains, working 10-hour days, and family traditions continue with family enjoying the Fourth at his in-laws’ Iowa property with swimming and good meals. He says: “The accident has not changed who I am.”