Michael Anthony Waltzing 1986-2004
Inter-County Leader, Frederic, Wisconsin, July 5, 2004
Webster teen dies in fireworks accident - ATF will investigate
By Gary King
WEBSTER—A local teen-ager lost his life Saturday night, July 3, when a fireworks shell exploded, striking him in the head.
Michael A. Waltzing, a 2004 graduate of Webster High School, was helping present the annual fireworks display at his family's Whitetails Wilderness campground north of Webster when the accident occurred in front of several hundred spectators. Waltzing was struck by a three-inch mortar shell when the display malfunctioned.
According to the Burnett County Sheriff's Department, the accident occurred at 10 p.m. Waltzing was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he was pronounced dead at 2:10 a.m., July 4.
One witness told authorities it appeared the victim had his upper body over the top of the firework when it exploded.
The victim’s mother, Jean Waltzing, told authorities the firework had either misfired or fell over and went off.
Michael Waltzing had helped his family run the sprawling campground which includes a restaurant, tennis courts and a bar on the banks of the Yellow River.
He graduated in May from Webster High School. He was described as a sociable, dedicated son who loved to hunt, fish and ride four-wheelers with his friends.
"He was a really good kid, a very likeable young man and a hard worker," said Renelle Sears of Webster, whose son, Aaron, was a friend of Michael’s and one of those at the campground when the accident occurred. "A lot of people liked him. Our thoughts are with the family."
Jason Hinze, Siren, knew Michael for three months and helped him to earn his high school diploma.
"Mike was a really good kid who worked very hard to graduate," he said. "He knew getting a diploma was a very important thing. He made it, and we were very proud of him. He had a great personality and was fun to talk to."
Hinze said Michael was into ATV and four-wheeler racing, and was very good at it, winning lots of times.
"He helped his family around the campground and golf course. He was a great kid to be around - I'm having a hard time with this one. Our hearts and prayers are with the family."
The sheriff's department issued a statement Monday stating that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been contacted and will also be investigating the accident.
Wisconsin residents can use Class B fireworks—larger fireworks displays—with no licensing or certification, according to the sheriff's department statement. They only require a permit based on jurisdiction.
The Waltzing family, who had presented a fireworks display for the past four years at their resort, had a permit from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms which requires an extensive background check for the use of Class B fireworks, something required in the wake of 9-11. The family had also received a permit from the town of Oakland chairman.
Family members had not formal training in the use of such fireworks, according to the sheriff's department, but according to the sheriff’s department, the fireworks were purchased legally.
When he was able to give a statement to police, Michael’s father, Michael A. Waltzing, said the family had set up the fireworks according to written instructions and what they were told by Victory Fireworks, Siren, where the fireworks were purchased. They had a person helping whose job was to keep the unused fireworks in a metal garbage can with a lid that was only opened when the person lighting the firework was there to get a new mortar.
The family had just started shooting the fireworks when the accident occurred, the elder Waltzing told a deputy. Michael lit a firework, which exploded in the tube, he said.
"It is a tragedy," said Sheriff Dean Roland. "It looks like they did everything right, everything by the book. It just happened."
The sheriff added that state law doesn’t require that people shooting off fireworks be trained or be of a certain age. "The real issue is the ambiguity of the law. It needs to be cleared up. Those people followed all the rules and got all the (required) permits. As long as there is no violation, I can’t stomp my feet (about it). They followed the law as it is written. That is how I see it."
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