Fourth of July Partying Gone Wrong

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

The Fourth of July weekend is a time when many Americans celebrate by having a barbeque and watching fireworks with friends, but if the party gets out of hand, the holiday can turn deadly.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 800 vehicle deaths occurred just on July 4 alone between 2007 and 2011. More than half of those incidents are alcohol-related. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed this data by finding that, on average, 51 percent of fatal crashes on July 4 are related to alcohol. And off land, 17 percent of boating fatalities during the weekend involve booze, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

But it’s not just alcohol that can lead to injury. From the tragic to the bizarre, here are six examples of Fourth of July partying gone wrong.

  • Last July, a Missouri grandmother was sentenced to over 12 years in jail for killing her infant granddaughter during a drunken driving accident that occurred in 2011. Joyce Fortner, then 47, crashed into a house and then a tree during the accident, causing her 19-month-old granddaughter to suffer extensive brain injuries before dying the next day. A breathalyzer test showed that her blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. Prosecutors initially sought a 20-year-sentence, but showed mercy due to Fortner’s obvious remorse and lack of a prior criminal record.
  • Eric Butkiewicz had plenty of reasons to be feeling festive during the holiday weekend in 2012. Not only was he partying at a hotel in Miami Beach, but his face was painted like the American flag. After police approached him, it became clear that Butkiewicz may have also been on prescription medication. He admitted to police that he had “three Xanax bars in my possession” and was booked on felony possession of a controlled substance. His mug shot was certainly one for the ages.
  • A 2009 Fourth of July weekend raid of a building in the Bronx turned up one of the biggest drug rings in the city’s history. When police entered the building in the affluent neighborhood of Riverdale, they found a half-million glassine envelopes of heroin. The kingpin of the operation, Jeffrey Alba, also operated two other drug mills in the area and was supplying to dealers as far away as Boston. He was arrested by authorities and 30 pounds of heroin were seized.
  • In 2011, a man in Boulder, Colorado, was arrested on July 4 for drunkenly hijacking a city maintenance tractor. Phillip Harold Hall, 23, admitted to police that he drove the tractor near a volleyball court at the Boulder Reservoir. When asked if he had been drinking, he bizarrely told them that, “I’m drunk for sure, but I’m trying to establish my independence.” Hall was then arrested and booked on suspicion of DUI.
  • 53-year-old Marion Burden was arrested last year on July 4 for drunkenly driving a lawnmower on a busy road in Gainesville, Florida. After providing two breath samples, it was determined that his blood alcohol level was more than triple the legal limit of .08.
  • An alcohol-fueled fight last year on July 4 led to a 22-year-old Vicent Gangi smashing a man in the back of the head with a glass bottle. Shards of glass broke off then shattered into the face of another witness, who needed stitches afterwards. Several sources reported that Gangi was belligerently drunk and berating people on Holmes Beach, located in the neighborhood of Bradenton, Florida. He was arrested and charged with felony aggravated battery and felony use of a deadly weapon.


Please remember to designate a sober driver this Fourth of July.

Celebrate Your Freedom with Pot?
The first marijuana-centric farmer’s market will take place in Los Angeles over the coming holiday weekend. Billed as the California Heritage Market, the indoor event will offer items for sale including edible marijuana treats, concentrated cannabis and paraphernalia. However, the market will be limited only to people who can buy marijuana legally in the state. Paizley Bradbury, executive director of the West Coast Collective, the marijuana dispensary hosting the farmer’s market, said they “are offering a new type of way for patients in Los Angeles to access their medicine.”


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