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2013 Simi Valley Independence Day Fireworks Accident, At Least 36 Hurt – Multiple Views of Accident

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Last night when all of the people in my dad’s neighborhood were out busting off what sounded like Class B fireworks, Simi Valley, California experienced a bit of bad fireworks juju, injuring at least 36 people for burns and other related injuries.  From the videos of the accident, you’ll notice a mortar shell flower-potting (which means it explodes either inside of the tube, or right as the propellant charge reaches the open air at the top of the tube), which then tipped over other mortar tubes, shooting shells right into the crowd and igniting other tubes.  Amazing, isn’t it?  Entertainment is a bigger/better/faster/harder business, and when something goes wrong, it always really goes wrong.

From an article at the LA Times, bolding is mine:

At least 36 people were injured or treated at Simi Valley-area hospitals after a major malfunction at a fireworks display sent pyrotechnics shooting into a crowd of spectators.

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people were gathered at Rancho Santa Susana Community Park in Simi Valley Thursday to watch the show when, officials believe, at least one pyrotechnic prematurely exploded in a mortar, causing a chain reaction that tipped over other fireworks and launched them into the crowd of spectators.

Simi Valley police initially said 28 people were injured, including 20 who were taken by ambulance to area hospitals. Additional victims sought treatment on their own.

Simi Valley Hospital treated 26 patients, 14 of which came in by ambulance, according to hospital spokeswoman Alicia Gonzalez. The patients ranged in age from 17 months to 71 years, and 12 were children, she said.

Twenty-three patients have been treated and released, she said. One was transported to an area burn center. Two remained at Simi Valley Hospital on Friday morning, but were listed in fair condition.

The injuries included burns, shrapnel, trampling wounds and chest pains, Gonzalez said.

I’m glad to hear of ZERO fatalities.  Wounds may take time to heal, but that time can at least be filled with love.

Check out some video of this accident — the initial flower-pot explosion starts a chain reaction of disaster that everyone close to is lucky to have lived through.

This is the most incredible view of the accident — just the magnitude of that size mortar shell exploding at ground level is almost unbelievably scary:

From ABC News:

A different ABC News affiliate, incredible video of the display:

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Established and accredited fireworks company Bay Fireworks from Bethpage, NY was contracted to perform the Simi Valley fireworks display this year.  Bay has assured news outlets that their employees are highly qualified; we here at JimOnLight just hope that the Bay Fireworks crews from the Simi Valley event are all safe and secure, too.

Images of the cleanup and investigation today (July 5, 2013):

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a destroyed mortar shell from July 4th’s Simi Valley Fireworks accident

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Police and investigators examine the damage, from July 4th’s Simi Valley Fireworks accident

Simi Valley Fireworks Mishap

The moment of explosion on ground level, from July 4th’s Simi Valley Fireworks accident

Have you ever seen the setups for fireworks displays?  There are some massive displays out there — the one here from last night in Peoria, IL was also pretty massive:

When I mention “mortars,” I’m talking about a tube that a fireworks shell goes into that guides it upwards — the desired effect.  These images are from fireworks displays across the world — notice the common theme of pipes and tubes?  The older industry way of setting up displays like this was with steel pipes (which would probably have avoided last night’s disaster in Simi Valley), but the common usage mortar tube is now PVC or other plastic resin.  Like so:

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Thanks to the LA Times, Larry Crump’s Fireworks Pages, and Reuters.

3 replies
  1. Charles R. Kaiser
    Charles R. Kaiser says:

    Jim, Modern fireworks shows use Fibre-reinforced epoxy (FRE) or High-density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipe for mortars. They have been shown to be better than steel for most modes of failure due to the much lower risk of fragmentation..The use of sheet steel pipe has actually been phased out for safety reasons. The use of sheet steel pipe, PVC pipe and ABS pipe is prohibited in Canada. Schedule 40 Steel pipe is still used, but it is usually reserved for shells larger than 6″ in diameter due to its weight. FRE and HDPE pipe is often used for shells larger than 6″ as well.

    There is an really good document on the destructive testing of HDPE pipe vs. steel to be found online. It was created back in 1988 when such pipe had just started to be used for fireworks shows. It is still as valid today as when the testing was initially done. You can find the document at http://www.pyropage.com/HDPE/HDPE.vs.steel3.html

    Charles R. Kaiser
    Arial Display Supervisor
    Senior Pyrotechnican

  2. Christian Pine
    Christian Pine says:

    I live in Simi Valley, but wasn’t at the fireworks…Heard the explosion. Glad it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

  3. Allen Newman
    Allen Newman says:

    Jim Charles is correct. Your article is full of inaccuracies. A flower pot would not cause the mortar to be torn apart in the middle like the one in the photo and most likely not cause damage to it either. Any professional would tell you it started with a detonation. The detonation most likely tore the rack apart allowing the adjacent tubes to fall over and point towards the crowd.
    If you look at the pictures they were using racks that are clearly illegal in California. IE: no diagonal bracing. Also they gang several racks together using one long board. That’s also against the law in California for good reason. Once that long board goes the rest can fall over.
    The news media mislead a lot of people by calling the racks “launch platforms”. It makes it sound like they were set on some type of platform off the ground.
    Thank you for posting though.

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