Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

July 5, 2013

Calif. fireworks platform tips, 28 hurt in blast

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — As many as 10,000 Fourth of July revelers were just settling into their seats for the fireworks show at a Simi Valley park when a bright plume of red and white bursts spread across the ground, injuring 28 people and sending others fleeing for safety.

Police in the city northwest of Los Angeles were still investigating what caused Thursday night’s explosion, but it appeared a firework detonated prematurely in its mortar, knocking over a row of others, police said.

The mortars toppled like “dominoes” and one or more fired into a crowd of spectators some 800 feet away, police Cmdr. Blair Summey told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/12qH6RB ).

A view of the scene from a distance Friday morning showed groups of mortars held vertically in box-like wooden structures sitting on the ground. In front of them, a number of mortar tubes lay horizontally scattered on the ground.

“For some unknown reasons the structure that holds these ordinances collapsed and caused them to be firing into the crowd,” said Simi Valley police Cmdr. Stephanie Shannon.

Cellphone videos captured fireworks exploding in spheres of sparks close to the ground, with smoke and people screaming.

The 28 victims ranged in age from 8 to 78 years old, Sgt. Tom Meyer said. A total of 20 people were taken by ambulance to area hospitals. Four suffered serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.

One police officer who ran into the crowd when the blasts occurred had shrapnel tear through his leather belt and his clothing, Shannon said. He had minor injuries to his back.

On Friday morning, blackened debris from the explosion littered the ground. Huge chunks of black shrapnel were still scattered across the park and the stand the fireworks had been on was sitting, charred, in the middle of a green lawn. Investigators planned to fly over the scene to photograph it and examine the debris, Meyer said.

The fireworks company, Bay Fireworks, said in a statement that it regrets the injuries, and planned a thorough investigation, with results to be made public.

The company also said that injured spectators should contact the Simi Valley Rotary Club to reach the company’s insurer. The annual July Fourth celebration has been sponsored by the city and the local Rotary Club for the past 43 years. 

The company, based in Bethpage, N.Y., has produced events for NASA, Walt Disney World, Legoland and the Republican National Convention, according to the company’s website.

The mishap came a year after a fireworks show in San Diego exploded in about 20 seconds and sent multiple bulb-shaped explosions over the bay. The show’s producer blamed a “technical glitch,” saying an error in its computer system caused tens of thousands of fireworks on four barges to go off simultaneously with a single command.

That show was not produced by Bay Fireworks.

A video clip of the Simi Valley accident that aired on KCAL-TV shows a pair of firework blasts at or near the ground. Another clip, posted on YouTube and shot from a distance, shows three ground-level bursts. The fireworks continue for almost another minute before stopping.

Colette Schmidt, who lives across the street from the park and had about 150 guests over to watch the fireworks from their front lawn, said they could tell almost immediately that something went wrong.

Two regular fireworks went off, she said, and then others started exploding at ground level and shooting off horizontally toward the crowd “like a fan.”

One hit the ground across from their home, leaving a crater, and bounced twice before shooting up over nearby trees and exploding in a puff of reddish-purple smoke, sad Schmidt’s daughter, Alessi Smith.

The family herded their guests inside and drew the blinds as sparks and embers rained down. Sparks set a dry field next door on fire, but the flames were quickly put out.

“It was terrible but we were so blessed because we had 150 people here and not one single spark hit our house,” she said. “It was all around us, but nothing here.”

Shannon said most people responded admirably and left in an orderly fashion. A bomb squad was sent to the park to deactivate the remainder of the fireworks.

Shannon said the fireworks primarily shot in one direction.

“They are going to travel the same distance across the park as they would in the air,” she said. “The ones that had actually ignited that had to run their fuse were going directly into the crowd.”

Simi Valley, home to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, is about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Other fireworks mishaps in the U.S. Thursday:

— One person was killed and others injured after a pickup plowed into pedestrians after the fireworks show in Grand Lake, Colo. The 33-year-old driver was arrested and is being held on suspicion of driving under the influence as investigators piece together what happened. Colorado State Trooper Josh Lewis says initial reports indicated those hit were on the side of the road.

— A barge being used to set off the annual Fourth of July fireworks on Whitefish Lake in Montana caught fire just as the grand finale began. The local fire chief said a spark from a low-bursting firework started the blaze. The two pyrotechnicians on board dove into the water. No one was injured.

— A worker at a fireworks show in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., was injured when a shell exploded prematurely. The explosion at the Cherry Grove Pier caused the show to end early, after just six minutes, and left a hole in the pier.

— In Seattle, fire investigators blamed illegal fireworks for a blaze that damaged 14 boats at a storage facility as the city’s official fireworks display was exploding nearby, causing an estimated $1.5 million in damages. One firefighter received minor injuries fighting the fire.

 

1
Text Only
National and World
  • Denver has nation’s first county fair to allow pot competitions

    Marijuana joined roses and dahlias Friday in blue ribbon events at the nation’s first county fair to allow pot competitions.
    This weekend’s Denver County Fair includes a 21-and-over “Pot Pavilion” where winning entries for plants, bongs, edible treats and clothes made from hemp are on display.
    There’s no actual weed at the fairgrounds. Instead, fairgoers will see photos of the competing pot plants and marijuana-infused foods. A sign near the entry warns patrons not to consume pot at the fair.

    August 1, 2014

  • House GOP weighs tough new immigration bills

    August 1, 2014

  • Poll: Foreign policy no longer Obama strong point

    August 1, 2014

  • US employers add 209K jobs, rate rises to 6.2 pct.

    August 1, 2014

  • Thousands rally for coal

    The echo of people chanting, “Hey, hey, EPA, don’t take our jobs away” could be heard in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.
    The voices came from about 5,000 United Mine Workers of America (UMW) members and their families along with other unions such as the Boilermakers Union and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International (IBEW) marching through the streets.

    August 1, 2014

  • West Africa Ebola outbreak tops 700 deaths

    Security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone’s capital Thursday looking for Ebola patients and others exposed to the disease as the death toll from the worst recorded outbreak in history surpassed 700 in West Africa.
    U.S. health officials urged Americans not to travel to the three countries hit by the medical crisis:  Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 31, 2014

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

Local News
AP Video
NYC Man's Chokehold Death Ruled a Homicide Congress Approves Iron Dome Funding Raw: House OKs Bill for Border Crisis Funds Rare Whale Fossil Pulled From Calif. Backyard Denver Celebrates Pot at the County Fair Escaping Email: Inspired Vision or Pipe Dream? Obama Calls on Hamas to Release Israeli Soldier Hispanic Caucus Slams GOP for Border Bill Shifts Obama: GOP Not Even Trying to Solve Immigration Emory Prepares to Treat American Ebola Cases US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Russell Simmons, LL Cool J Visit Youth at Jail Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian US, UN Announce Deal on Gaza Cease-Fire
Sister Newspapers' News