illegal fireworks

Residents Ride a ‘Rollercoaster of Emotions' More Than a Week After South LA Illegal Fireworks Explosion

Seventeen people were hurt in the June 30 blast, including nine Los Angeles police officers and a federal agent.

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Residents are waiting for word on when they might be allowed to return to their homes more than a week after an explosion during an illegal fireworks bust rattled a South Los Angeles neighborhood.

For many of those displaced by the blast and investigation, the past week has meant living with family or out of a hotel room. Kenia Pireto's family, including children ages 10, 9 and 5, spent a night in their car before moving into a hotel.

"Since then, it has been a rollercoaster of emotion," said Pireto, who is pregnant. "We were scrambling to figure out where to go. We're going day by day, trying to be optimistic."

Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the investigation at the scene was expected to wrap up Thursday. It was not immediately clear when resident will be allowed to return home.

Pireto said she's not sure whether her family will be home anytime soon. She said crews were checking gas lines to determine whether it's safe to return home.

"All I want for my family is to be ok, safe indoors, happy again," she said. "I just want those who are responsible to do right by my family."

The powerful explosion rocked the area as homemade fireworks were being destroyed by a bomb squad, leaving a trail of destruction, injuries and questions. Seventeen people were hurt in the June 30 blast, including nine Los Angeles police officers and a federal agent. The explosion flipped and damaged cars and smashed windows in homes and a laundromat.

It could take days to determine why the material exploded inside a spherical containment vessel on a tractor-trailer, tearing the rig apart in what was supposed to be a safe operation to handle explosives that were too unstable to remove from a South Los Angeles neighborhood where tons of illegal fireworks were discovered.

The one-ton lid of the vessel flew into a backyard two blocks away, breaking a lemon tree and damaging the house.

Experts say the explosion was highly unusual, especially for a law enforcement agency with the size and resources of the Los Angeles Police Department. The blast could have been the result of human error — such as not correctly sealing the vessel or over-loading it with material — or a defect in the equipment like a micro-fissure that has grown with time and use.

Or both.

The explosion came after police had spent the day disposing of about 3,000 to 5,000 pounds (1,360 to 2,268 kilograms) of commercial-grade fireworks that were found in the home following an early-morning tip. Police found some of them on a patio in cartons stacked 8 to 10 feet high, Moore said.

Fireworks are illegal to sell or possess in Los Angeles and in unincorporated areas of the county.

A resident, Arturo Cejas, 27, was arrested on suspicion of possessing a destructive device, but he also may face charges of child endangerment because his 10-year-old brother was in the home, Moore said.

It wasn't immediately known whether Cejas had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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