Owner sentenced for homemade fireworks explosion that destroyed Grandview business

The 76-year-old owner of a Grandview business that was blown to pieces by a cache of homemade fireworks was sentenced Wednesday to probation.

James Witt was sentenced in federal court in Kansas City, where he previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture fireworks without a license.

"Well, I made a big mistake," Witt told U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner. "And I'm sorry for it."

A co-defendant, Thomas McKeehan, 67, has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Witt's business, JW's Lawn and Garden Equipment at 140th Street and U.S. 71, was blown to pieces by a massive explosion on Jan. 4, 2017.

No one was injured.

Investigators determined that Witt and McKeehan had been purchasing bulk supplies of chemicals and manufacturing explosive devices including M-80 and M-100 devices.

They also bought and sold commercial fireworks without the required license.

After the explosion, authorities seized several thousand commercially packaged aerial shells and more than 17,000 M-80s and M-100s that they had been keeping in a Belton storage locker.

Fenner told Witt he was getting a big break by being placed on probation for three years, and gave him a stern warning to do what he was supposed to do and stay out of trouble.