Bay Fireworks pyrotechnics likely injured spectators, says CEO

Police officials investigate a site in Simi Valley,

Police officials investigate a site in Simi Valley, Calif., where an explosion Thursday injured more than two dozen people at a fireworks display. (July 5, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Malfunctioning fireworks from a Bethpage-based company likely caused blasts at two July Fourth events in Southern California that injured more than three dozen people, the operation's chief executive said Tuesday.

The explosion at a fireworks show in Simi Valley, Calif., about 40 miles north of Los Angeles, injured 39 people when shrapnel went flying through the crowd after police said the shells exploded prematurely in their mortars.

A second incident in Laguna Hill, about 50 miles south of Los Angeles, forced the cancellation of the show after a shell malfunction, city officials said.

Dennis Brady Jr., chief executive of Bethpage-based Bay Fireworks, said unlike in Simi Valley, shrapnel from the explosions in Laguna Hills did not fly into the crowd and no one was injured.

"We did experience a similar shell malfunction at Laguna Hills using the same product," Brady wrote in an email Tuesday. "Thankfully, we did not experience the same chain reaction."

Brady said the company is still waiting for official findings to be released.

Laguna Hills officials said Tuesday it was the second consecutive year that Chinese-made fireworks purchased from Bay Fireworks malfunctioned.

The Laguna Hills show was shut down Thursday night almost as soon as it started by a fire marshal after mortars exploded at or near the ground, damaging some of the wiring to the rest of the fireworks that had yet to go off, said Laguna Hills City Manager Bruce Channing.

Close to 10,000 people had gathered to watch the fireworks show, Channing said.

The city is seeking a refund and was told by Bay that it had received bad shells this year, Channing said.

Brady was not available for comment Tuesday night about the 2012 malfunction.

"We'd certainly like to have a better understanding of what occurred," Channing said. "I don't think it's ever expected that a firework will prematurely discharge . . . so when it happens, there's little other explanation to offer initially beyond bad product."

California state fire officials are investigating both explosions.

In Simi Valley, Bay Fireworks had planned to shoot nearly 2,500 shells that ranged in size from 21/2 inches to 5 inches in diameter, Brady told The Associated Press on Monday. He said he did not know how many were shot toward the crowd.

All spectators were at least the required 350 feet away from the display, Ventura County Fire spokesman Capt. Mike Lindbery told the AP.

Neither city would say whether they will use Bay Fireworks next year.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday