Alachua County man killed after firework malfunctions

An Alachua County man was killed in a freak accident while setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Darren Lotow was fatally injured in front of his home in Hawthorne on Northeast 22nd Lane in the Campville area.

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office said the 42-year-old father of two was fatally injured when a firework malfunctioned.

The sheriff’s office said Lotow was setting off large mortar-type fireworks through a PVC pipe that was anchored in the ground when one malfunctioned and exploded out the side of the pipe.

His wife called 911 around 9:30 p.m. because she couldn’t get hold of him.

“My husband went out for fireworks in the pasture, and I can’t find him now,” she told 911.

She found him before help arrived and tried to save him with CPR.

“A firework didn’t go up, (it) went sideways,” she told 911.

“He was lighting up a firework and it blew up,” Lotow’s father-in-law told 911 in a separate call.

Neighbor and mechanic Mike Towns said Lotow dropped off his truck at his house for repair, hours before he was killed.

Photos: Father killed in firework mishap and family

“He dropped it off yesterday around 8:30. He came and picked me up and I brought him back to his house. And the last thing he said to me was, ‘Happy Fourth of July,’” said Towns.

Multiple neighbors told Action News Jax that the explosion was so loud, it shook their homes.

“I heard the explosion and ShandsCair lifting off. I didn’t put one and two together until I got the word today what had happened,” said Towns. “He was a nice guy. And he did talk about his kids a lot.”

A family member told Action News Jax that Lotow’s son and daughter learned on Tuesday afternoon that their father wasn’t coming home from the hospital.

“(It's) sad. They’re not going to have a father,” said Towns. “We care for them, and if they need help, let us know.”

The sheriff’s office said the fireworks that Lotow was using are not legal in Florida, unless they’re used under certain ceremonial or agriculturally allowable exemptions.

Deputies have not determined when or where the fireworks were purchased.

Lotow was the chief operating officer at Advantage Wellness Services in Gainesville. His wife is the vice president of finance there.

He was also an avid fisherman who posted a drone video to YouTube six months ago of a fishing trip with his wife and friends.

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