39 people injured in Calif. fireworks accident

Medical personnel and volunteers treat victims after the fireworks blast in Simi Valley, Calif. Four suffered serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.
Medical personnel and volunteers treat victims after the fireworks blast in Simi Valley, Calif. Four suffered serious, but not life-threatening, injuries. (WENDY PIERRO / The Ventura County Star)
Posted: July 07, 2013

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 39 people and sending others fleeing for safety.

Police in the city northwest of Los Angeles were still investigating what caused Thursday night's explosion. While the cause was still unknown, they had earlier said it appeared a firework detonated prematurely in its mortar, knocking over a row of others.

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

The victims ranged in age from 8 to 78, Sgt. Tom Meyer said. A total of 20 people were taken by ambulance to area hospitals. Three of the victims remained hospitalized Friday night. Another was being treated by specialists at Grossman Burn Center in West Hills.

On Friday morning, blackened debris from the explosion littered the ground. Huge chunks of black shrapnel lay 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, Meyer said, to photograph it and examine the debris.

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

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.

The mishap came a year after a fireworks show in San Diego exploded in about 20 seconds and sent multiple bulb-shaped blasts 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.

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