A neighborhood party, an errant fireworks blast, leads to death, injuries
- A Holland woman was killed and several others injured from a firework explosion in Ottawa County Monday
- Michigan law allows consumer grade fireworks on certain days of the year but cities can make their own regulations
- Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would put more restrictions on fireworks at the state level
Ottawa County authorities released the name of the woman killed Monday night when exploding fireworks sent shrapnel and metal pieces through the air at a neighborhood gathering. The blast injured nine other people and damaged nearby vehicles and homes.
It was one of two fireworks-related mishaps in western Michigan on Monday in the leadup to the Fourth of July, with several people in the city of Allegan being treated for burns at an event there. The tragedies come as Lansing lawmakers are attempting to tighten restrictions on fireworks in Michigan.
While the Ottawa County incident is being labeled an accident, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday it is investigating the device that caused the injuries and the person who brought it to the event.
“The device that exploded was not a commercial firework and is believed to have been supplied by one of the subjects attending the holiday gathering,” the sheriff’s office said in a release. “At this time, the explosion is believed to be accidental and the device was not meant to explode.”
Jana Daniels, 41, of Holland, was killed in the blast, which happened shortly after 11 p.m. Monday in a residential neighborhood of Park Township, along the Lake Michigan coast. Officials said Wednesday she died of a cardiac laceration due to a shrapnel injury.
Nine other victims were taken to surrounding hospitals that night. Authorities said Wednesday that five have since been released while the others remain hospitalized but are expected to live.
At least three homes and five vehicles were damaged during the explosion, according to the release. Some fragments from the explosion went through the windows of other nearby homes.
In the Allegan incident, a firework display left several spectators with minor burns after a firework cake unintentionally landed in the crowd, according to a statement released by the city. One person was taken to Helen Devos Children’s Hospital for additional treatment.
Injuries and even death have marked Fourth of July fireworks celebrations across the country. In Texas a man died Tuesday and four others were injured from a firework explosion. And two people in their early twenties in Illinois had to have amputations following a mortar explosion on Tuesday.
In 2022, more than 10,000 people in the U.S. were treated for fireworks injuries and 11 people died, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The legislation of fireworks displays has been a contentious issue in Michigan for more than a decade. Then-Gov. Rick Snyder signed off on legislation legalizing all consumer-grade fireworks in late 2011.
Supporters have defended the policy as an economic boon for the state that increases tax revenue and fills vacant buildings with fireworks vendors. Former state Rep. Harold Haugh, the law’s original sponsor, told Bridge in 2015 he has no regrets, saying “those that don’t like fireworks will always have their opinion. But the bottom line is that we’ve had those fireworks for years and years.”
Critics of the legislation point to safety concerns and the nuisance in some cities and neighborhoods of jarring explosions throughout the weeks leading up to, and following, July Fourth.
A citizen petition calling for a repeal of the law has accrued more than 40,000 signatures over the years.
A 2021 study at the University of Michigan concluded that injuries caused by fireworks significantly increased after passage of the Snyder-era law.
From January 2012, when the law took effect, to December 2018, 160 people were treated at the U-M hospital. Nearly half of the patients sustained injuries from mortars. The study also cited 33 injuries from airborne fireworks that were illegal for individuals to buy or use in the state at that time.
In late 2018, Michigan's law was changed to give local governments more authority to restrict use of fireworks — except on New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend and June 29-July 4, as well as July 5 if it falls on a Friday or Saturday, when residents are allowed to light fireworks on personal property.
Senate Democrats, now in the legislative majority, could revisit the law once again. Legislation reintroduced this year by Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, would further limit state mandates for legal fireworks and require at-home firework shows to be wrapped up by 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day and by 11 p.m. on other eligible holidays.
As proposed, the bill would also allow large municipalities to further restrict fireworks except on New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day and increase fines for discharging fireworks on public property or violating local ordinances.
Wojno, who was not available for comment Wednesday, said after introducing the legislation that the goal is to reduce the overall impact of consumer fireworks on communities, noting local governments “take this issue very seriously.”
The proposal, currently before the Senate Local Government Committee, would need to pass the Senate and House and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, only one state — Massachusetts — bans all consumer fireworks, though many states set limits on the types of fireworks individuals can purchase. Two states, Illinois and Vermont, allow only sparklers and other novelty items. In Hawaii, Nevada and Wyoming, fireworks are regulated at the county level.
Michigan is one of 31 states that allow the sale of consumer fireworks.
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