LOS ANGELES — At least 28 people were hurt Thursday night when fireworks exploded and shot into the crowd during a Fourth of July celebration in Simi Valley, authorities reported.
The accidental detonation occurred about 9:20 p.m. during a professional fireworks display attended by thousands of people at the Rancho Santa Susana Community Park.
“There was a big boom. Everybody started running down the street. People were screaming,” said Justice Allen, 17, of Simi Valley, located in Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles. “Everybody was just terrified. People hid in bushes.”
Allen said she had just arrived at the park after getting off work when fireworks started flying over the fences and sparks passed by her and her friend.
Another witness, Annisa Wynn, told TV station KTLA in Los Angeles that the explosion happened about two minutes into the show. Fireworks suddenly began shooting sideways along the ground into the crowd instead of up in the air, she said.
“The fireworks were so close, you could see them on the ground,” Wynn said. “It never happens this way. People were screaming.”
Amid the chaos, Ventura County firefighters set up a triage center in the park, where they treated adults and children, many of them hit by flying debris. Some people were taken by ambulance to area hospitals.
No fatalities were reported. Authorities described the injuries as minor to severe.
Simi Valley Police Commander John Parks said the Fourth of July event was heavily staffed with police, park rangers and firefighters and they were able to treat the injured almost immediately after the explosion.
Parks also said the public cooperated with authorities and quickly evacuated the park after the blast.
Jai Kohli, 30, of Pasadena, said there were about 10,000 people at the show and there was a lot of confusion after the explosion occurred.
He recalled that one of the fireworks exploded low to the ground with a lot of force. “People around me instinctively ducked,” he said.
Hazciel Vidrio, 26, of Simi Valley, said he and his family have attended the event the past several years, but “this was completely unexpected.”
After four or five rockets went straight up, he said, there was a loud blast and he realized that something was wrong.
“A lot of kids were screaming and crying,” Vidrio said. “People were trying to get away from the fireworks as fast as they could and were running into each other.”
Police said the cause of the explosion is under investigation. But Norman Valandran of Simi Valley, who was attending the event with his family, said he saw one of the fireworks misfire and then the rest seemed to explode all at once.
Valandran added that his friend was hit in the face with debris and had to be taken to a hospital, while his nieces and nephews suffered some minor burns.
“When it all exploded I knew that wasn’t supposed to happen and after that people were just running around,” he said.
This is the fourth time he and his family had come to the show here. “Probably be the last,” he said.
“There was like a couple of mortars, that’s what they call them, that went up normal and then the whole thing just exploded all at once, not in the air but on the ground,” said Roger Chickering, a Simi Valley resident who has been coming to watch the fireworks for around 20 years. “And they were shooting out into the crowd. It was just a humongous explosion, a flash of different colors and people were jumping and screaming.
“This is usually the best show around,” he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services