More than two dozen people were injured when a wood platform holding live fireworks tipped over, sending the pyrotechnics into a crowd at a Fourth of July show northwest of Los Angeles, authorities said today.
Between 8,000 and 10,000 revelers were settling into their seats for the fireworks extravaganza at a Simi Valley park yesterday when the spectacle of lights that were supposed to be launched in the sky never took off. Instead, a bright plume of red and white bursts spread across the ground, injuring 28 people and sending others fleeing for safety.
Police were still investigating what caused the 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.
"For some unknown reasons the structure that holds these ordinances collapsed and caused them to be firing into the crowd," Simi Valley police Cmdr. Stephanie Shannon.
Four people were listed in serious condition, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening. Sixteen more were taken to hospitals with minor to moderate injuries. The remainder were treated at the park where emergency crews, already on hand as a safety precaution, set up a triage area.
Meanwhile, a worker at a fireworks show in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was injured yesterday 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 California, a video clip 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.
"There was a big boom, everybody started running down the street, people were screaming," Justice Allen, 17, of Simi Valley told the Los Angeles Times. "Everybody was just terrified. People hid in bushes."
Authorities estimate people were 900 feet (275 metres) away from where the fireworks were being launched. 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.
The annual July Fourth celebration has been sponsored by the city and the local Rotary Club for the past 43 years. Shannon said she had no information about the company hired for the fireworks show.
Simi Valley, home to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, is about 40 miles (64.37 kilometres) northwest of Los Angeles.