The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

July 5, 2013

Nearly 30 people hurt in California fireworks mishap

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
News
  • Prize claim cost man $1,829

    WINFIELD — Western Union is doing what it can to educate people about the risks in wiring money. An entire section on its website (www.westernunion.com) is devoted to providing information that might reduce the risk of people falling victim to fraud schemes.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Reel good time enjoyed by 200 young anglers

    TREVORTON — It only took about three minutes for J.C. Wallish to reel in his first fish at the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association’s annual Youth Trout Derby on Saturday.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Elytte Barbour's 'bad trip' put him on the road to prison, friend says

    SUNBURY — A former roommate of slaying suspect Elytte Barbour drove 450 miles from North Carolina to spend 45 minutes in the Northumberland County Prison with his best friend last week, and was not surprised when he heard Barbour say: “I am afraid to spend the rest of my life in jail.”

    April 19, 2014

  • bonehunt20a.jpg 60 dogs battle for biscuits at annual bone hunt

    It was a scene similar to ones playing out all over the nation this weekend: nervous parents holding baskets and bags, watching their little ones search for goodies in the grass.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona tribe set to prosecute first non-Indian under a new law

    PASCUA YAQUI INDIAN RESERVATION, Ariz. — Tribal police chief Michael Valenzuela drove through darkened desert streets, turned into a Circle K convenience store and pointed to the spot beyond the reservation line where his officers used to take the non-Indian men who battered Indian women.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Danville parents hope strike ends quickly

    DANVILLE ““ First-grader Madison Wild was sad she missed school Thursday.

    April 19, 2014

  • Schools ask state to waive 180-day rule

    Three area school districts have asked the Pennsylvania Department of Education to add up their hours instead of their days in order to reach the required amount of instruction time in the school year.

    April 19, 2014

  • Former Bucknell star in NBA playoffs

    ATLANTA — It really hit Mike Muscala a few days ago when he was listening to the Nets’ starting lineup at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

    April 19, 2014

  • State: Discard raw milk from Greenfield Dairy

    MIDDLEBURG — Consumers should discard raw milk purchased recently from the Greenfield Dairy of Middleburg, which also has temporarily suspended production after Listeria monocytogenes was discovered in the product following routine testing, the state Department of Agriculture announced today.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penn State police: Three posed nude at Nittany shrine

    STATE COLLEGE — Penn State police say three male students who reportedly posed nude for a photo at the university’s Nittany Lion Shrine face school discipline.

    April 18, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Poll

How do you eat your chocolate Easter bunny?

Feet first
Tail first
Ears first
     View Results
Photo Galleries
The Valley

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.