msnbc.com
updated 7/6/2011 10:19:00 AM ET 2011-07-06T14:19:00

Authorities are investigating after a father of two young children was decapitated in a Fourth of July fireworks accident in Fargo, N.D., according to reports.

The Grand Forks Herald newspaper reported that police had identified the dead man as 41-year-old Jesse William Burley.

Chris Hanson, a neighbor, said he was preparing to leave the Riviera Heights mobile home park after tornado sirens went off just before 9:30 p.m., the Herald said.

Burley let off a large firework that caused a big bang and visible shock waves in the air, Hanson told the paper.

He then took another firework and walked to the middle of the street to light it.

'A cloud of smoke'
"Within 10 seconds of us talking to him, he lit it and all we saw was a cloud of smoke, a bang," Hanson said, according to the Herald. "When I walked up to his body, it was nothing but his shoulders down."

Burley's stepfather Chuck Asplin, also of Fargo, said the dead man had enjoyed life to the fullest and was a good-hearted man who would do anything for anybody, the Herald said.

The paper added his children, aged 2 and 3, were not at home when the accident happened.

Police Lt. Joel Vettel told the Herald that they were confident it was a federally regulated, commercial-grade firework and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was assisting Fargo police.

Authorities were trying to find out how it was obtained and whether it was actually illegal.

Vettel told WDAY News that police were trying to establish whether Burley's death was an "operator error" or an error by the manufacturer.

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