An apparent industrial accident in Simi Valley caused fireworks to shoot toward a Fourth of July crowd. Some 41 people were injured, with the youngest victim just 17 months old. Beverly White reports from Simi Valley for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Friday, July 5, 2013.
Independence Day celebrants were terrified when fireworks exploded into the crowd at a Fourth of July celebration in Simi Valley on Thursday, sending at least 41 victims to the hospital.
Ages of the injured ranged from 17 months to 78 years, but none of their injuries were life-threatening, according to a release by the Simi Valley Police Department.
Most had been released from local hospitals by Friday night, officials said.
Authorities were still trying to figure out on Friday exactly what caused the ground-level fireworks explosion at Rancho Santa Susana Community Park. The crowd was at least 350 feet from the launch area for the fireworks, officials said.
"The fire just came straight right at us," said Paulina Mulkern, who was released from Simi Valley Hospital on Friday. "My first thought was my cousins, their kids -- 4 and 7. I grabbed the 4-year-old and threw her behind me, tucked her underneath a chair."
Mulkern, who brought her parents back to the park on Friday, lay on top of the 7-year-old to protect him from burning debris and flying scrapnel.
Her hands were burned and she had many bruises, she said.
Victims were triaged by the Ventura County Fire Department at the scene and later taken to hospitals including Simi Valley Hospital, Los Robles Hospital and Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.
“We were able to treat that volume very quickly because we had extra people who came in and helped us,” said Kim Milstien, president and CEO of Simi Valley Hospital, which treated 26 patients.
Los Robles Hospital treated at least eight people after the pyrotechnics show, including a 10-year-old boy with deep cuts and burns. Other injuries included ringing of the ears, cuts and burns to the shoulders, back and stomach, officials at Los Robles Hospital said.
Two of the injured remained Friday at Simi Valley Hospital, officials said: a 21-year-old man who was trampled by spectators running from the scene; and a 55-year-old man who suffered chest pains.
Twelve of the 26 treated at Simi Valley Hospital were children, officials said.
Five others were treated at Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital, and two additional victims were released after treatment at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, according to hospital officials.
Terri Mongiello, whose house is across from the park, said she could hear that something was wrong during the fireworks show.
"I told my daughter, something terribly wrong is happening. We saw people scatter and scream," said Mongiello, whose fence was broken by flying debris. "We heard people yell, 'Fire! Fire!'"
The Ventura County Fire Department had reported that 28 people were injured, but officials said they could not account for any victims that were not seen by paramedics at the time of the event.
NBC4 received reports that victims as young as 17 months were treated for injuries related to the explosion, but Tom Kruschke of the Ventura County Fire Department could only confirm the original list of 28 victims between age 8 to 78.
“If more people have sought help or aid on their own that didn’t go through our system...that is entirely possible,” Kruschke said.
Fifty officers and personnel members of the Simi Valley Police Department, Ventura County firefighters and an ambulance were already present during the massive explosion, which allowed for a quick response to the victims. An additional eight ambulances were called to the scene to help take people to area hospitals, according to the release.
"Although it is still unknown why the launching station fell over, there are no indications of foul play and it appears that this is an industrial type accident," the release stated.
New York-based Bay Fireworks, the company that set up the show, released a statement Friday morning: "Bay Fireworks deeply regrets that people were injured during the Simi Valley fireworks display. Public safety has always been a major priority of Bay Fireworks."
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