Bullet Free Sky: Celebratory gunfire victims plead for no guns on New Year's Eve

2:04 PM, Dec 27, 2012   |    comments
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Ruskin, Florida -- Two people hit by celebratory gunfire are joining together to encourage people to put their guns away this New Year's Eve.

Both were injured after stray bullets hit them this year in the Tampa Bay area. While the two have been in touch for several months through the awareness campaign, 'Bullet Free Sky,' they had never met face to face until Thursday morning.

"We're comrades," smiled Richard Smeraldo, moments after meeting 13-year-old Diego Duran.

The meeting was a long time coming, but also held purpose. The two are sharing their stories in hopes it will save lives. 

Duran was watching New Year's Eve fireworks with his family on their 10 acre property in Ruskin when a celebratory bullet from a mile away struck him in the head.

"I just fell...you know that feeling you get when you hit your funny bone? The tingling? That's throughout my whole body...I could still hear, but I couldn't move," recalled Duran, an 8th grader at Shields Middle School.

He could hear his family's screams to call 911, but not much after that.

His next memory was waking up in ICU.

"We almost lost out kid because of somebody's irresponsible act," said Duran's mother, Sandy Duran.

The teen spent five months in and out of ICU recovering from the most severe of injuries.

Two weeks ago, Duran says his doctor gave him the all clear to return to mild activity, including his beloved sport of skateboarding.

Read: Father heartbroken after son hit by NYE celebratory gunfire

His unique bond with Richard Smeraldo is only recent.

They share an experience both never imagined was a possibility.

Smeraldo calls himself and Diego the "unluckiest, lucky people alive".

On the same day the Duran family pleaded with the public to put down their guns on July 4th through their awareness campaign 'Bullet Free Sky', Smeraldo was struck by a celebratory bullet while watching fireworks with his wife in Safety Harbor.

"It's amazing that a bullet could come down and make three new holes in my face and not do any major damage. Very lucky," said Smeraldo.

Read: Man watching fireworks struck by falling bullet

The bullet went through is ball cap, through his nose and lip and chin and then bounced of his chest thanks to a medallion he was wearing around his neck.

He still wears the medallion which was given to him by his daughter a week before. A few months ago, he had a duplicate made for Duran who proudly wears it around his neck every day.

"It means a lot knowing that Richard had it on and it saved his life," said Duran, as he held up the medallion, "He added 'Bullet Free Sky', so it has both of us...it's like a piece of both of us on it."

Diego Duran's mother spearheaded the awareness campaign, 'Bullet Free Sky' to encourage people to put their guns away and avoid celebratory gunfire because people can get hurt, even killed. Her son and Smeraldo are living proof.

"A lot of people think when they shoot up in the sky, the bullet is going to do no harm, well, it might do no harm to the shooter, but that terminal velocity can reach up to 500 feet per second. It only takes 200 feet per second to penetrate a human skull, so that bullet can kill anyone out there," said Sandy Duran.

'Bullet Free Sky' recently released a Public Service Announcement which will be seen on the airwaves and on YouTube as we head into New Year's Eve celebrations.

"What they've been through is very tragic. It's the consequence of a very irresponsible act that we stand here together to prevent," said Duran.

Click: Bullet Free Sky

In Florida, knowingly firing a gun in a public place is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

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