Rhode Island Man Killed After Setting Off Firework Over His Head

Rhode Island police have opened an investigation into a fireworks incident that left a man dead in May. David Ziegenfuss died from a “blast injury to his head” while handling fireworks at his home. An unidentified individual reportedly placed the firework on the man’s head, and it went off. The mortar-style device is unlawful in the Ocean State. 

Police Chief Paul Gingerella told reporters that Ziegenfuss was drinking with friends when the incident occurred. Paramedics transferred him to the Yale New Haven Hospital, where he died soon afterward. His brother Shawn described him as an “adoring father” who was “much loved by his family and friends.” Mr. Gingerella warned against drinking alcohol and handling fireworks, saying it increases the dangers “exponentially.”

Friends established a GoFundMe fundraising account for Mr. Ziegenfuss’s young son, Logan. 

Gingerella confirmed that the manner of death was initially considered accidental but that investigations are continuing. 

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that fireworks-related deaths are increasing and have trended upward for more than a decade. CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric said there are more than 10,000 people injured every year in the US and eleven fatalities in 2022. He added that most incidents are preventable, and people should learn to use fireworks correctly or not use them at all. “The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to watch the professional displays,” he said. 

Experts say that the type of firework used, a tube-shaped mortar, is the deadliest in America and accounts for the highest number of fatalities. A CPSC report also found that most injuries are to the hands and fingers, quickly followed by the head, face, and ears. Almost half of injuries are burns, and around 75% of accidents result in Emergency Room attendance. 

Using prohibited fireworks in Rhode Island carries a $1,000 fine and can even result in a prison term of up to one year. Some fireworks are legal, however, if handled by experienced individuals with permits.