Drunk Driver Crashes Into Mardi Gras Revelers, Hit With Felony Charges

By Victoria Kim 02/28/17

The man injured at least 28 spectators during the incident last Saturday night. 

a Mardi Gras parade

The drunk driver who injured dozens of people at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans on Saturday evening now faces felony charges. 

According to Reuters, 25-year-old Neilson Rizzuto went before a judge on Sunday (Feb. 26) and was charged with two felony counts of negligent vehicular injuring in the first degree, one count of hit and run driving causing serious injury, and one count of reckless operation of a motor vehicle. 

His bond has been set at $125,000, but if released, Rizzuto will be on house arrest and prohibited from driving.

Police say Rizzuto blew three times the 0.08% legal blood alcohol limit—0.232%—two hours after he was taken into custody.

On Saturday night, during the last weekend of Carnival celebrations, witnesses watched in horror as Rizzuto “took out rows of people” who were watching the Krewe of Endymion parade—injuring at least 28 spectators as young as four, including one police officer.

One witness, Greg McNeely, told the New Orleans Advocate that Rizzuto appeared “blasted” and “way too young to be drinking like that.”

Every year, law enforcement throughout the state promote sober driving campaigns and prepare to work overtime ahead of Mardi Gras festivities. The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC) has reported, year after year, that Mardi Gras is the single most dangerous holiday for Louisiana motorists. 

According to LHSC, during the five-day Mardi Gras weekend in 2015, there were 599 car crashes throughout the state, resulting in 10 deaths and 1,005 injuries. Six of the deaths involved alcohol.

“On average over the past two years, Louisiana had 120 serious crashes per day during the Mardi Gras holiday,” Lt. Col. John LeBlanc of the LHSC said last year. “These are crashes involving death or injury, with more than half of the deaths involving alcohol.”

It seems the Bayou State has gained a reputation for bad driving in general. According to a study last year that analyzed data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), Louisiana drivers rank fifth worst for fatalities per mile driven and careless driving, making them among the worst drivers in the United States.

As of now, Rizzuto may face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the hit and run, up to five on each count of vehicular injuring, and up to 90 days for the reckless driving charge.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr