Simi Valley Fireworks Show Malfunctions, Injures Dozens (VIDEO)

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — When a July Fourth fireworks display exploded and sent red and white bursts into spectators at a Southern California park, Paulina Mulkern saw shrapnel headed straight for her 4-year-old cousin.

Mulkern pushed the girl under a lawn chair, and then shielded her 7-year-old cousin with her body as scorching debris flew overhead.

“You feel the big old heat come right over your back,” she said Friday, still shaking as she recounted the explosion the night before that left her hospitalized with bruises and red marks on her back.

Thirty-nine people were injured as many in the crowd of thousands fled for safety. The victims, from 17 months to 78 years old, had burns and shrapnel wounds, and some were trampled, authorities and hospital officials said. The injured included 12 children.

Only three remained hospitalized Friday night.

Mulkern said she went into shock after being hit by a flying piece of debris, trembling badly as she was carried to a road where rescuers stripped off most of her clothes and wrapped her in a blanket.

“I was really terrified. Every time someone launched a firework it got me into panic mode and they just told me, ignore the sounds around you and concentrate on your breathing,” she recalled.

Police in Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles, said it appeared a firework exploded prematurely in its mortar, knocking over others and aiming them across the field. Fire investigators, however, said later they had not yet determined a cause.

Police based their initial statement on the accounts of witnesses, who said a rack of fireworks fell over, said Ventura County Fire Capt. Mike Lindberry.

Among other key questions investigators were trying to answer was whether the pyrotechnics display was set far enough away from spectators, and even if all the rules were followed, whether those guidelines needed to be revised so that the public is kept farther back from launch sites.

Regulations require crowds be kept 70 feet away for every inch of diameter of the largest shell.

By those standards, spectators should have been at least 350 feet away from the show put on by Bethpage, N.Y.-based Bay Fireworks, said Ventura County Fire Department Deputy Chief Mike LaPlant. The distance of spectators from the show will be one of many factors considered by investigators.

“The distances were either at or beyond the normal distances, the prescribed distances, for that sized shell,” he said.

The company said it regretted that spectators were injured and that it planned to publicly release the results of a thorough investigation.

Of the victims, all but three had been treated and released by late Friday, hospital officials said.

One patient was being treated by specialists at Grossman Burn Center and two other adults remained hospitalized in fair condition, said Kim Milstein, chief executive of Simi Valley Hospital.

Although fireworks accidents at professional shows are rare, they are not unheard of. The blast in Simi Valley was itself among several mishaps nationwide Thursday, including errant explosions injuring workers at shows in nearby Ojai, as well as North Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a fireworks barge that caught fire in a Montana lake at the start of the grand finale.

In 2008, fireworks shells exploded on the ground and another one launched into the crowd, injuring five people at an event that also involved Bay Fireworks, said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, a fireworks trade group. The accident will undoubtedly prompt members of the National Fire Protection Association, which develops the codes that guide the industry, to evaluate whether changes are needed, she added.

“For spectators, this is incredibly rare,” Heckman said. “This is just one that is going to stop everybody in their tracks and say, `We’ve got to the figure out what happened.'”

Bay Fireworks is licensed by the state and had no violations on their record and the show did not require a state fire marshal permit, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The state could cite the company after reviewing the results of the investigation by Ventura County, which issued the permit for the event.

Cellphone videos captured a frantic scene in Simi Valley. Fireworks exploded in spheres of sparks close to the ground, and smoke enveloped the park grounds. People screamed and ran as one man could be heard mistakenly shouting that someone was shooting.

Colette Schmidt was watching with guests at her home across the street when it became clear something went terribly wrong. After a few fireworks lofted perfectly in the sky, there was a big explosion on the ground and a volley of blasts.

One landed and left a crater across from her home, then bounced twice and shot over nearby trees, exploding in a puff of reddish-purple smoke, said Schmidt’s daughter, Alessi Smith.

The family herded their guests inside and drew the blinds as sparks and embers rained down. “It was terrible but we were so blessed because we had 150 people here and not one single spark hit our house,” she said.

A bomb squad was sent to the park to help deactivate the remaining 60 percent of fireworks that weren’t launched.

On Friday morning, blackened debris from the explosion littered the ground. Huge chunks of shrapnel were still scattered across the park and the boxes the mortars had been sitting in were left in the middle of a green field.

Authorities said investigators planned to examine the debris and fly over the scene to photograph it.

The annual July Fourth celebration has been sponsored by the city and the local Rotary Club since 1970.

The mishap came a year after a fireworks show in San Diego exploded in about 20 seconds and sent multiple bulb-shaped explosions over the bay because of an error in the computer system that sets off the pyrotechnics. No one was injured. That show was not produced by Bay Fireworks.

Heckman, with the fireworks trade group, said that while the investigation has not yet revealed the cause of the Simi Valley blast, she believes it was probably a product malfunction.

The industry takes such incidents seriously, especially when they involve spectators. She noted that Bay Fireworks has been in business for a long time and has done significant productions.

The company website says it has produced events for NASA, Walt Disney World and Legoland.

“This incident is a dark cloud over the entire industry,” she said. “We don’t take it lightly.”

___

Associated Press writers Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, Calif., and Greg Risling and Shaya Mohajer in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Also on HuffPost:

Check out the Independence Day 2013 scenes below:

Loading Slideshow

  • Fourth of July U.S. Independence Day fireworks are seen over the US Capitol and National Monument July 4, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • People watch fireworks light up the sky over New York City on July 4, 2013 in Weehawken, New Jersey. July 4th is a national holiday with the nation celebrating its 238th birthday.

  • Fourth of July Independence Day fireworks are seen over the Washington Monument, July 4, 2013 in Washington, DC.

  • A woman walks past as she take part during the the 4 of July celebrations in Weehawken, New Jersey. July 4th is a national holiday with the nation celebrating its 238th birthday.

  • Fireworks light the sky over the U.S. Capitol, left, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July celebrations, Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Washington. Surrounded by scaffolding, the Washington Monument is closed for repairs after an earthquake in 2011.

  • Fireworks light up the Empire State Building along the Manhattan skyline during Macy’s 37th Annual Fourth of July fireworks show, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • Scott Webb, of Waldorf, Md., celebrates during the finale of the Boston Pops Fourth of July Concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston, Thursday, July 4, 2013.

  • Fireworks light up the statue of Simon Bolivar during Independence Day celebrations on July 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Independence Day celebrates the US declaring independence from Britain in 1776. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Fireworks light the sky over the U.S. Capitol, left, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July celebrations, Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Washington. Surrounded by scaffolding, the Washington Monument is closed for repairs after an earthquake in 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

  • Fireworks explode over the Philadelphia Museum of Art during an Independence Day celebration, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in Philadelphia.

  • Fireworks light up the sky over New York City on July 4, 2013 in Weehawken, New Jersey. July 4th is a national holiday with the nation celebrating its 238th birthday.

  • Fireworks light up the sky over the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol on July 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. July 4th is a national holiday with the nation celebrating its 238th birthday.

  • Fourth of July Independence Day fireworks are seen over the Washington Monument, July 4, 2013 in Washington, DC.

  • Fireworks In Washington, D.C.

    Fireworks light up the statue of Simon Bolivar during Independence Day celebrations on July 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Independence Day celebrates the US declaring independence from Britain in 1776.

  • Fireworks light up the Empire State Building along the Manhattan skyline during Macy’s 37th Annual Fourth of July fireworks show, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in New York.

  • Fireworks explode over Lake Union during the Seafair Summer Fourth event Thursday, July 4, 2013, as seen from Gas Works Park in Seattle, Wash. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Jordan Stead)

  • Fireworks light the sky over the U.S. Capitol, left, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July celebrations, Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Washington. Surrounded by scaffolding, the Washington Monument is closed for repairs after an earthquake in 2011.

  • Fireworks light up the Empire State and Chrysler buildings along the Manhattan skyline during Macy’s 37th Annual Fourth of July fireworks show, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • Fireworks explode over the Philadelphia Museum of Art during an Independence Day celebration, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Fireworks illuminate the sky during a post game Fourth of July celebration after the baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 5-4. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

  • A dog watches the Independence Day parade in Takoma Park, Maryland on July 4, 2013. Independence Day celebrates the declaration of independence from Britain in 1776. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Fireworks explode over downtown Austin, Texas, in celebration of Independence Day on Thursday, July 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner)

  • Fireworks light up the Empire State Building along the Manhattan skyline during Macy’s 37th Annual Fourth of July fireworks show, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • Spectators watch as fireworks explode overhead during the Fourth of July celebration at Pioneer Park, Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Prescott, Ariz. On a day meant to ponder the nation’s birth, and those who built and defended it over 237 years, Prescott’s residents had 19 of their neighbors, their friends, their relatives to remember. Nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters were killed Sunday by an out-of-control blaze near Yarnell, Ariz. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Visitors to the Statue of Liberty disembark onto Liberty Island from the first ferry to leave Manhattan, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in New York. The Statue of Liberty finally reopened on the Fourth of July months after Superstorm Sandy swamped its little island in New York Harbor as Americans across the country marked the holiday with fireworks and barbecues. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • A man dressed as Uncle Sam takes part in the Independence Day parade in Takoma Park, Maryland on July 4, 2013. Independence Day celebrates the declaration of independence from Britain in 1776. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Visitors to the Statue of Liberty take photos as they arrive on the first tourist ferry to leave Manhattan, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in New York. The Statue of Liberty finally reopened on the Fourth of July months after Superstorm Sandy swamped its little island in New York Harbor as Americans across the country marked the holiday with fireworks and barbecues. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Volunteers hoist up the U.S. flag at the starting line before the start of the 44th running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race at Lenox Square Thursday morning in Atlanta, Ga., July 4, 2013. The 10K race is a Fourth of July tradition in Atlanta that’s billed as the largest road race in the U.S. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution,Jason Getz )

  • People start to gather for the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island on July 4, 2013 in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. Participants in the annual have just ten minutes to down as many hotdogs and buns as they can. (Photo by Monika Graff/Getty Images)

  • A youth on a bicycle joins the Water Street parade along the Apalachicola River during an Independence Day celebration in front of the city’s fishing fleet, an ice cream social at Riverfront Park and a fireworks display Wednesday, July 3, 2013, in Apalachicola, Fla. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

  • Vintage cars take part in the Independence Day parade in Takoma Park, Maryland on July 4, 2013. Independence Day celebrates the declaration of independence from Britain in 1776. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A woman has the Stars and Stripes woven into her hair as people participate in the Danish-American Rebild Celebration in Rebild, Denmark, Thursday July 4, 2013. The Rebild organization celebrates American Independence Day each year, and Danes in American still make the trip back to the old country to participate in the festival. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Rene Schutze) DENMARK OUT

  • NEW YORK, NY- JULY 04: Master of Ceremonies George Shea (2top) cheers as Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut sets a new record and wins the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island on July 4, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Chestnut, of San Jose, California, ate 69 hotdogs in ten minutes to win his seventh straight title. (Photo by Monika Graff/Getty Images)

  • A U.S. flag, in the shape of the country, is unfurled in the outfield before a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on Thursday, July 4, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

  • Maryland State Delegate Sheila Hixon waves during in the Independence Day parade in Takoma Park, Maryland on July 4, 2013. Independence Day celebrates the declaration of independence from Britain in 1776. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • NEW YORK, NY- JULY 04: (L to R) Tim Janus, Joey Chestnut, Matt Stonie and Bob Shoudt compete in the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island on July 4, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Chestnut, of San Jose, California, ate 69 hotdogs in ten minutes to win his seventh straight title. (Photo by Monika Graff/Getty Images)

  • Maryland Lt Governor Anthony Brown waves during the Independence Day parade in Takoma Park, Maryland on July 4, 2013. Independence Day celebrates the declaration of independence from Britain in 1776. Brown is currently running to be the governor of Maryland. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Blazing in patriotic colors of red, white and blue, a giant digitally-animated fireworks display celebrating the 4th of July will light up the skies of Times Square on the Toshiba Vision and TDK screens high atop One Times Square, Monday, July 1, 2013 in New York. The digital display will set the mood for Independence Day from today through July 7, 2013. (Photo by Jason DeCrow/Invision for Toshiba and TDK/AP Images)

  • Golf carts and bicycles helped lead an Independence Day celebration that included a parade down historic Water Street adjacent to the Apalachicola River on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, in Apalachicola, Fla. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

  • Sonya Thomas

    Sonya Thomas holds the first place trophy after winning the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating contest with a total of 36 and three quarters hot dogs and buns at Coney Island, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • Ed Linderman

    Ed Lunderman, a member of a Living History Musket Detail, fires his musket to represent “the Shot Heard Around the World” during a Fourth of July Patriotic Ceremony at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • A member of the Sons of the American Revolution San Antonio Chapter carries a wreath to a Fourth of July Patriotic Ceremony at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Thursday, July 4, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • John Daly, Peter Hanson

    John Daly, front with patriotic pants, walks with fellow golfer, Peter Hanson, right, during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic PGA tour golf tournament at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Thursday, July 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

  • In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, chefs Paul Menta, left, and Jim Brush, right, put finishing touches on a giant Key lime pie Thursday, July 4, 2013, in Key West, Fla. The gargantuan pastry, measuring slightly more than 8 feet in diameter, was the centerpiece of an inaugural Key Lime Festival that concludes Saturday, July 6. The pie’s ingredients included juice from 5,760 Key limes, 55 gallons of sweetened condensed milk and 200 pounds of graham crackers. The gigantic version of the Florida Keys’ signature dessert is being submitted to Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest Key lime pie. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Rob O’Neal)

This entry was posted in Florida Keys Fishing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Recent Posts

  • Contact Us



  • Facebook page for the War Bird Sportfishing Charter Boat Twitter Account for Captain Dana Banks - Key Largo Fishing Guide and Charter Boat Captain of the War Bird RSS Feed for Posts from Captain Dana Banks - Key Largo Fishing Charters - the War Bird
    Google Plus

    To Book a Deep Sea
    Fishing Charter
    (305) 394-7420

    Florida Keys Fishing in Key Largo


  • To Book The War Bird
    (305) 394-7420


    KEY LARGO
    DEEP SEA FISHING
    • Sailfish
    • Dolphin - Mahi Mahi
    • Wahoo
    • King Mackerel
    • Tuna - Black Fin Tuna
    • Marlin
    KEYS REEF &
    WRECK FISHING

    • Yellowtail Snapper
    • Mutton Snapper
    • Cubera Snapper
    • Mangrove Snapper
    • Grouper
    • Kingfish - King Mackerel
    • Spanish and Cero Mackerel
    • Hogfish
    • Amberjack
    • Cobia
    • Baracuda

  • The Fish House
    Key Largo's Finest Seafood Restaurant
    102401 Overseas Hwy
    Key Largo, FL 33037
    305-451-4665

    Lunch: 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
    Dinner: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.
    No Reservations, just come on in!


  • Pages

  • Meta


  • Offshore Sportfishing in the Florida Keys

  • Tags


  • Facebook page for the War Bird Sportfishing Charter Boat Twitter Account for Captain Dana Banks - Key Largo Fishing Guide and Charter Boat Captain of the War Bird RSS Feed for Posts from Captain Dana Banks - Key Largo Fishing Charters - the War Bird

    To Book a Deep Sea
    Fishing Charter
    (305) 394-7420