- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

OSCEOLA, Neb. (AP) - A 63-year-old man is scheduled to face Polk County charges connected to an explosion that severely injured a 14-year-old relative on July Fourth last year.

Court records say the hearing at the county courthouse is set Thursday for Russell Hilger, of David City. He faces felony and misdemeanor assault charges and five counts of criminal mischief.

Hilger told an investigator that he just wanted to make a big bang, so he put black powder into a 2-foot-long pipe that was an inch in diameter and was welded to a base plate. He stuffed in three towels as he’d been taught once by a rodeo clown, according to the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1ayP30P ).

Hilger set off the device on Independence Day during a family gathering at Ernst Lake, which sits a few miles south-southwest of Columbus.

The blast sent pipe pieces everywhere, hitting five vehicles, penetrating a cabin wall and tearing through a nearby tent.

Inside the tent was Lauren Campbell, who was hit in the abdomen. She was rushed to a Columbus hospital and then transferred to an Omaha hospital. She lost her spleen and part of her pancreas but has otherwise recovered so well that she’s playing basketball at Aquinas Catholic High School in David City.

Hilger is her great-uncle. He and his attorney have declined to comment.

Hilger doesn’t face any explosives-related charges, said Colfax County Attorney Ronald Colling, because the steel pipe didn’t meet the state law description of a bomb or destructive device.

“It looks to me like it’s pretty clear his intent wasn’t to hurt anybody,” Colling said. “His intent was to make a big bang; that’s what he told the investigator.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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