A fireworks company said bad fireworks appear to have caused a blast that injured more than three dozen people at a show in Simi Valley and triggered problems at another of its Fourth of July events.
Dennis Brady Jr., chief executive of Bethpage, N.Y.-based Bay Fireworks, said an apparent shell malfunction in Laguna Hills, however, did not send fireworks flying toward the crowd.
Troubles also were reported at shows in San Juan Capistrano and Ojai, where a worker was injured. Although fireworks accidents at professional shows are rare, a worker also was injured in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a fireworks barge caught fire on a Montana lake.
“We did experience a similar shell malfunction at Laguna Hills using the same product,” Brady wrote in an email. “Thankfully we did not experience the same chain reaction.”
Both incidents appear to have been caused by a shell malfunction, he said, but the company is waiting for official findings to be released.
State fire officials are investigating the cause of the accident in Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles. The explosion sent shrapnel flying and wounded 39 people as many in the crowd of thousands fled. Police initially speculated that a firework exploded prematurely in its mortar, knocking over others and aiming them across the field.
Pyrotechnic operator Bruce Sussin said inspectors checked the site before the show and everything was fine, until fireworks began setting each other off.
“Once that occurred and we realized we had a catastrophic failure, we immediately reached back and turned off the computer. … The show immediately shut down,” Sussin said.
In Laguna Hills, City Manager Bruce Channing said that show was shut down almost as soon as it started by a fire marshal because one mortar exploded at or near the ground.
Channing said the city is seeking a refund.
“We'd certainly like to have a better understanding of what occurred,” he said. “I don't think it's ever expected that a firework will prematurely discharge … so when it happens there's little other explanation to offer initially beyond bad product.”
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