Sunday, July 6, 2008

The annual post-Fourth of July roundup

Ah…so Friday was the Fourth of July. I worked a regular shift, up at 2:30 AM and home at about 2:00 in the afternoon. Crystal, my wife, had to work last night, from 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM this morning. Needless to say, we didn’t get to go to the Charleston waterfront for the fireworks display launched off the deck of the USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point. Our town of Walterboro only bothers with fireworks for the opening night of the annual Colleton County Rice Festival in April.

Have no fear, though, because this is South Carolina, and if there’s one thing you can count on in semi-rural SC, it’s that your neighbors will keep you up half the night setting off their own displays, usually after spending the day partaking of adult libations. Much the same way that mushrooms crop up in your yard after a drenching rain, the first couple weeks after the summer solstice sees the blooming of that most ubiquitous of Carolina growths, the roadside fireworks stand. These seem to crop up on almost every intersection along the major thoroughfares, and in the outer boundaries of most Wal-Mart parking lots, in addition to the permanent year-round stands almost always co-located with an off-ramp to the I-95 to sell to the tourists from states that don’t allow fireworks. Here in Walterboro we have at least three full-year shops, and I saw a good half-dozen roadside stands crop up in the past two weeks.

You see, here in South Carolina, we encourage people to play with explosives in their yards. The Post & Courier, our local newspaper in Charleston, went so far as to print an article that told the readers what the best & worst fireworks to buy are. It’s good to know that in the caveat emptor world of home-grown explosives that the local newsies are on top of suggesting quality goods.

Ironically, despite the abundance (Or maybe because of it) of pyrotechnics available locally we don’t really hear about big fireworks accidents here in the Lowcountry. Conversely, it’s generally in the states where fireworks aren’t legal where we hear of the horrific tragedies, like the ones I reported last year at this same time:

And, of course, there’s already stories out from Friday night’s debacles…

Police in Riverside, Ohio, said a man lost part of his leg when fireworks went off inside his parked sport-utility vehicle, blowing the windows out.

A 6-year-old girl in Bayville, N.Y., suffered second-degree burns when fireworks landed in her lap, police said. Investigators said it wasn't immediately clear who launched the fireworks but said the child wasn't at a public pyrotechnics display.

A 3-year-old boy in Leominster, Mass., suffered serious burns after his father shot off fireworks that went awry, authorities said. The 37-year-old man will probably be charged with illegal possession of fireworks, police said.

In Port Huron, Michigan a 51-year-old man was critically injured when he was struck in face by a mortar-type firework, the St. Clair County sheriff's department said. Officers said the man was placing the firework in a tube when it ignited.

A Fourth of July fireworks shell misfired in the northern Iowa town of Charles City, sending a fireball skidding down a street into a crowd of spectators and injuring 37 people. Most of the people treated after the Friday night accident in Charles City suffered minor injuries, a spokesman said. It appears there was a misfire involving 13 racks of firework tubes during the finale of the city-sponsored show said Saturday.

Charles City, Iowa, picture by Ryan Kronberg

And at Jones Beach, the popular state park near New York, a bunch of unexploded shells from Friday night’s displays started to wash up on the beach. Roughly 2,000 visitors were told to leave the beach immediately after the seaborne shells began turning up around midday Saturday. The beach was to remain closed until sunrise Sunday as authorities continued searching for any remaining fireworks. The shells apparently stemmed from Friday night's show, launched from an offshore barge, but the company that put on the show said that all of their shells had been accounted for.

And if you still doubt that fireworks will seriously Eff your day up, go do a google image search on firecrackers...there's a couple of rather grotesque pictures there...

Hey look! An x-ray of a fireworks accident!

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