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Falling Bullet Strikes Clearwater Man in Face During Fireworks Show

The bullet reportedly went through the bill of the 74-year-old man's cap and through his nose, lip and chin as he watched the Fourth of July fireworks at Safety Harbor Spa and Marina, authorities said.

CLEARWATER, FL -- A local man got a painful surprise as he watched a Fourth of July fireworks display Wednesday — a bullet through his face.

Richard John Smeraldo, 74, was struck and injured by a falling bullet while he watched the fireworks in Clearwater with his wife and friends around 9:45 p.m. near the Safety Harbor Spa and Marina, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Smeraldo told deputies that he first thought he had been struck by a rock, until one of his friends found a bullet on the blanket next to her.

"The bullet evidently went through the bill of Smeraldo's cap, into the bridge of his nose, out his right nostril, through the upper portion of his bottom lip and exited though his lower chin," a sheriff's office spokesperson said in a media release. "The bullet then struck a metal medallion Smeraldo was wearing on a chain around his neck — then bounced off the back of his friend and onto the blanket."

Smeraldo was taken to Mease Countryside Hospital, where he was treated and received stitches before being released, officials said.

Deputies launched a search and investigation in an area just south-southwest of the Safety Harbor Marina. No arrests have been made.

The investigation continues.

Michael July 05, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Mr. Smeraldo was that unlucky on-in-a-million person who gets hit by a falling wayward bullet that someone miles away fired into the air. If I were him. I would definitely stay indoors during that vicious summer thunderstorms in Clearwater..
Frank Dindl July 05, 2012 at 06:18 PM
A bullet shot straight up doesn't have enough energy left when it hits the ground to cause injury, unless it hits you in the eye (reference Hatcher's Notebook which describes actual bullet impact testing). The injuries described in the article indicate that the bullet was fired at an angle that allowed the bullet to retain quite a bit of kinetic energy on impact. Still could have been fired from a mile away or more, depending on the caliber.
David July 05, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Wow he is one lucky dude. I just wonder how a stray falling bullet would have that much downward force.
victor.laslow July 05, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Although a falling bullet will have less energy than when fired from a gun, it can have lethal effects. If terminal velocity is reached a .30 caliber bullet will reach a velocity of 300 feet per second. Similarly, a .50 caliber bullet will reach a velocity of 500 fps. There are literally hundreds of cases where people have been seriously injured or killed by falling bullets. And your theory of angle is wrong. A bullet fired straight up can gain more velocity than one fired at an angle of less than 90 degrees. Google it!
Josh Desmond July 05, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Or he was the lucky guy who got shot in the face and lived.
Vernita Pelkey July 05, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Dang, people don't listen, this happened to a child on New Years Eve in the Tampa Bay area.
Mitch Loftus July 05, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Still on a ballistic trajectory instead of being fired straight up. Either way: fired by a complete idiot - probably drunk.
Tina Alexander July 05, 2012 at 07:59 PM
This happens all the time. It is gravity. What goes up must come down. For those of you who don't believe it can hurt someone, go to a firearms expert. They will tell you that it can!
Frank Dindl July 05, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Read Hatcher's Notebook (available from Amazon). I am reasonably knowledgeable on this subject. The Ordnance Department conducted experiments to assess the hazards of bullets fired straight up. My point is that the bullet in the article was likely fired at an angle significantly less than vertical to retain enough kinetic energy to inflict the injuries that were described.
michelle Jennings July 05, 2012 at 08:33 PM
A little boy in atlanta Ga was in Church services exactly a year ago, was struck by a bullet shot to celebrate the 4th and that little boy is deceased. They are trying to pass a law in Ga that restricts sales of bullets days before these types of holidays. So yes a bullet fired straight up in the air can and does kill people.
Frank Dindl July 05, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Michelle, Sorry to hear about the little boy. However, I respectfully suggest that the bullet was not fired straight up. Did the police investigation provide any answers? Was the boy inside a church at the time? A bullet fired into the air can certainly kill, just not one fired straight up. Sad anytime someone is injured or killed.
Bob H July 05, 2012 at 11:23 PM
You are 100% WRONG. You better hope you never are standing under one!!
Bob H July 05, 2012 at 11:27 PM
During WW2 the US dropped thousands and thousand of what were pretty much bullets with no power other than gravity. Hurt? Just ask the German troops with holes in their heads. Very much dead.

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