The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

July 5, 2013

Fireworks company regrets injuries at W. Pa. show

APOLLO — A fireworks company “deeply regrets” that at least three spectators were hurt during a Fourth of July display at a western Pennsylvania high school football field by what witnesses say was an exploding shell, although a spokesman said it’s not clear how they were injured.

“At this point, we really don’t know what happened,” Stephen Vitale, a spokesman for New Castle-based Pyrotecnico, said Friday. “There were no detonations, no malfunctions as reported by the crew. We had no reports from the crew of any faulty product.”

The company acknowledged there were injuries at Owens Field in the Apollo-Ridge School District where the shell reportedly exploded near some spectators. The field is about 35 miles northwest of Johnstown.

Lisa Culp, of Kiski Township, said her 14-year-old daughter had to be treated for second-degree burns to her legs and at least two other children were hit by debris from the exploding shell, the Valley News Dispatch of Tarentum first reported. Culp didn’t immediately return a call to her cellphone.

Culp’s daughter, Brook Wright, told WPXI-TV that she was with a friend when the shell burst near them.

“I saw the flash and my friend started running so I started running,” Wright said. “I dropped my phone, my flip-flops fell off, and it hit me.”

Vitale confirmed Culp’s account that her daughter and two other children were hurt, but said he could offer no other details.

“That’s what we’ve heard, too, but no claims have been filed at this point,” Vitale said.

Wright said the back of her legs burned “really bad” and that she temporarily lost her hearing from the blast.

“Whenever the boom hit, I couldn’t hear a little bit,” Wright said. “All I hear was bzzzzzzzz.”

Wright was released from the burn unit at UPMC Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh on Friday, and had her lower legs bandaged. It wasn’t immediately clear where the other injured people were treated, though they were believed to be less seriously hurt.

Pyrotecnico is working with law enforcement and other investigators, and its crews were cleaning up the football field Friday and working to determine what occurred the night before. The company has produced shows in the borough for several years and said its equipment and operations had been inspected and properly permitted.

Apollo police and school district officials did not immediately return repeated calls for comment. The display was reportedly sponsored by a local civic group formed to raise money for the event, but representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Pyrotecnico deeply regrets that people were injured during the Owens Field fireworks display,” the company said in a statement, adding that “spectator safety is Pyrotecnico’s No. 1 priority.”


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