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Independence Day – Fun and Danger

“…Ignite the light and let it shine Just own the night like the 4th of July ‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework” –Firework by Katy Perry

Independence Day celebrations were a “blast” this year (pun intended). The sky cleared by sundown and the excitement of celebrating the birth of this great nation was underway. There were parades, fishing contests, cookouts, music, races, and all types of family fun all over Massachusetts and the North Shore. Once the sun set, the fireworks began. From all reports, the local fireworks were spectacular this year. The crowds were treated to a great show watching the fireworks over Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, at the beaches in Marblehead, and the Lynn Red Rock Park, according to all reports. The night sky lit up with explosive, bright colors and loud booms. A wonderful way to remember and celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence – the document that created our nation.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mThe next day or two revealed some of the dangers of celebrating too hard. News reports discussed a story from Maine where a young man died as a result of attempting to light a firework off the top of his head. Witnesses said the man placed a fireworks mortar tube on top his head and then it was set off.  The young man was instantly killed when the firework exploded. What a bizarre and sad story.  Another news story showed that in Dorchester two boys were severely injured by a firework accident with one of the boys losing a hand.

National news stories also highlighted the dangers of Fireworks. We learned that a couple of star athletes incurred serious injuries. Pro bowl National Football League player Jason Pierre-Paul injured himself in a fireworks accident, blowing off part of his hand and now risks losing a 60 million dollar contract offer from the NY Giants.  It was also reported that Tampa Bay Buccaneers CJ Wilson was severely injured as a result of a firework accident and according to reports he lost two fingers. Quite possibly career ending and costing him millions.

Recent changes in the laws in many states resulted in repealing bans on fireworks, and making it easier to buy and use them. Massachusetts remains just one of three states that completely ban all types of consumer fireworks, Massachusetts General Laws c 148 § 39.   The other two states with a ban on fireworks are Delaware and New Jersey.

According to a press release from the Massachusetts Public Safety Agency, children and youth are the most common victims of fireworks injuries as 60% of fireworks victims are under the age of 25 and 14% are under the age of 5.

Sometimes, innocent bystanders are hurt as well. In a Massachusetts injury case Luoni v. Berube, Thomas Berube was hosting a July 4th party with about 30 to 50 people. Unknown persons began to set off a fireworks display in his backyard. One of the guests at the party was Dominic Luoni, and as the fireworks were being lit he moved about 100 feet away. As he walked away he heard an explosion and felt something hit him in the left eye. Mr. Luoni suffered a permanent defect in his vision due to a fragment hitting him in the eye. Mr. Luoni filed a civil suit against Mr. and Mrs. Berube claiming that the homeowners were negligent in allowing the fireworks to occur on their property. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a social host owed no duty of reasonable care to protect guests from fireworks set by an unknown third party. Landowners could be held liable for the foreseeable acts of third parties if they stand in a special relationship with the plaintiff. Had a special relationship existed between them the case could have had a different result.

Fireworks on the 4th can be awesome. But use good judgement and be safe.