SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A product malfunction appears to be the cause of a “catastrophic failure” at a Southern California fireworks show that sprayed the crowd and injured more than three dozen people, the show’s pyrotechnic operator said on Monday.
Operator Bruce Sussin told The Associated Press that they immediately pulled the plug on the July 4 show when the problem occurred at a park in Simi Valley northwest of Los Angeles.
“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,” he said.
Police initially said it appears a firework exploded prematurely in its mortar, knocking over others and aiming them across the field. Fire investigators have said they have not yet determined a cause for the incident, which sent shrapnel flying across the field and wounded 39 people as many in the crowd of thousands fled for safety.
Sussin said inspectors checked the site before the show by Bethpage, N.Y.-based Bay Fireworks and everything was fine. He said once the fireworks began detonating “it happened so fast, faster than you and I can almost envision.”
Sussin says he later heard that other operators reported similar problems with some fireworks. He declined to say which ones or who made them.
The American Pyrotechnics Association says there were no immediate reports of widespread problems with a particular firework product over the holiday.
Some localities did, however, report problems with their shows. In the Orange County city of Laguna Hills, City Manager Bruce Channing said their show, also operated by Bay, was shut down almost as soon as it started by a fire marshal because one of the mortars exploded at or near the ground, damaging some of the wiring to the rest of the fireworks that had yet to go off.
Channing said the city is seeking a refund and was told by Bay that it had received bad product.
A message was left for Bay Chief Executive Dennis Brady Jr.