Geraldton company West Coast Fireworks sends ashes of deceased loved ones into sky with firework display

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Alexis, 5, with grandparents Michelle and Ken Boyland, pet dog Loki and Pebbles and friend Tania Mauger.
Camera IconAlexis, 5, with grandparents Michelle and Ken Boyland, pet dog Loki and Pebbles and friend Tania Mauger. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian

Fireworks and funerals don’t usually go hand in hand, but one Geraldton business says placing the remains of loved ones in a shell and sending them into the sky has become a sought-after service.

West Coast Fireworks husband and wife team Ken and Michelle Boyland, who managed the Geraldton fireworks on Saturday, started catering for funerals when their neighbour died of cancer in 2014.

“It has always been a bit of a joke among the pyrotechnics folk,” Mr Boyland explained.

“About them wanting to go up in a firework after they’ve died.

“Then my neighbour’s husband died of cancer and she asked if we could do it for him.

“It was covered on the TV news and after the exposure, requests started coming in from all over.”

Mr Boyland said cremated remains can go up in a single firework or as part of a display. A loved one of the deceased pushes the button to blast the ashes into the sky.

Mr Boyland said ashes will often be spread over a farm or a favourite camping area.

Often family members take their time before they detonate the shell, because once they do, the ashes are gone.

“They often tell us that’s what he or she would have liked, to go out with a bang.”

WA-based national counsellor for Australian Funeral Directors Association, Adrian Bartlett, said WCF’s exploding ashes in fireworks was the first he’d heard of the phenomenon in WA.

“There are lots of options these days to make a funeral more personal,” he said.

“There are memorial groves, where people have ashes planted and they grow into trees.

“People make pottery and turn the ashes into a glaze.

“Then there are people that turn ashes into artificial diamonds.”

Mr Bartlett said there was no legislation governing what someone can do with remains, except littering laws prohibiting their disposal in public areas, such as the main street of a town.

He also said ashes were mainly carbon and calcium, meaning they were unlikely to pose any health hazards.

The Boylands started their firework company in 1985, about three years after they got married.

Mr Boyland said he originally learned the ins and outs of pyrotechnics because his son was part of a motocross stunt team and wanted to make his bike go ‘bang’ when he went through hoops and jumped ramps.

After learning how from a friend, Mr Boyland also exploded fireworks from a lamppost one Christmas and was asked by other people if he could set off fireworks for them.

At West Coast Fireworks they employ roughly 30 people and will often do free shows for charity.

“We put on a $10,000 display for Camp Quality,” Mr Boyland said.

“It’s great to see people light up when they watch fireworks and there’s some children from little country towns who have never seen them before.”

The Boylands have a property that sits within the City of Greater Geraldton and a neighbouring shire.

According to the law, they’re not allowed to advertise where they live because at any given time they have roughly 60 tonnes of explosives on their property.

Mr Boyland said he’s never been worried about break ins.

“Well,” he chuckled.“If all the explosives went bang around here, the disaster would be so quick you’d never know it.”

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