Fireworks company ‘deeply regrets’ Simi Valley explosion, injuries
The New York company hired for the Simi Valley fireworks display where 28 people were injured in a major malfunction Thursday said it “deeply regrets” the incident.
The Simi Valley Rotary Club hired Bay Fireworks for the show at Rancho Santa Susana Community Park, where officials believe a pyrotechnic prematurely exploded, causing a chain reaction that shot other fireworks into the crowd of spectators.
The 28 victims ranged in age from 8 to 78 years old, officials said. A total of 20 people were taken by ambulance to area hospitals. Four suffered serious, but not life-threatening, injuries. One police officer was also struck in the back by a projectile that cut the leather on his belt.
In a statement issued Friday morning, Bay Fireworks said it will conduct a “thorough and complete” investigation into the incident.
“Public safety has always been a major priority of Bay Fireworks,” it read.
The company said its “major concern and focus” were on injured spectators and their families. It asked anyone injured in Thursday’s show to contact the Simi Valley Rotary Club to obtain insurance information for Bay Fireworks.
Bay Fireworks described its staff as “highly qualified,” saying it was regularly trained and used equipment “inspected and approved by authorities.” “Our displays, like the one in Simi Valley, are properly permitted through local authorities having jurisdiction,” the statement said.
According to its website, Bay Fireworks has produced events for Walt Disney World, NASA, the Republican National Convention, the New York Mets and other major entities.
An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people gathered to watch the Simi Valley show. One official said the explosion happened about five minutes into what was supposed to be a 25-minute display.
An investigation into the incident is ongoing, though authorities said they believe it was an industrial accident -- there were no initial indications of foul play and no criminal investigation underway. The scene was marked by police tape Friday morning, as authorities waited for a Bay Fireworks team to remove the remaining pyrotechnics.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration will also investigate the incident.
Bay Fireworks said it would make the results of its own inquiry available to the public.
“In the days and weeks to come, Bay Fireworks will work closely with the Simi Valley and all local, state and federal agencies that have jurisdiction over our operations in order to reach an accurate conclusion to this unfortunate accident, and to ensure that it does not happen again,” the company said.
On Friday morning, barbecue grills and lawn chairs littered a cordoned-off area of the park, where several people were returning to pick up their belongings.
Josh Antonucci, 16, went to the show with about 20 family members, like they do every year. “This is usually the best place to go watch fireworks,” he said Friday morning in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Antonucci and others had returned to the park to collect their items, including broken sunglasses and flip-flops.
Antonucci was near the front row with a cousin and a friend when he saw the fireworks tip over.
“It just went boom,” he said.
The person next to Antonucci was hit in the face, he said. Antonucci was struck by something -- he’s not sure what -- in the back. “It felt like a punch,” he said. “It wasn’t hot or cold.”
Then he took off running.
“I knew I just had to get away,” he said. “I went straight to my family ... to see if everyone was safe. Everything was going too fast.”
“There was a lot of panic,” he continued. “But also a lot of unity. Everyone was helping each other out.”
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