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    Exclamation Bonita Springs Fla--Fireworks Truck Explodes...Kills 4, Injures 2

    St. Petersburg Times, Local

    Truck packed with fireworks explodes
    Four workers are killed and two hurt in the accident with materials meant for July 4 shows.

    By WES ALLISON, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published July 3, 2003

    Some mistook it for thunder, others for the sonic boom of a jet. As her windows rattled and a massive cloud of smoke and dust arched into the sky, one woman thought her community was being bombed.

    A truckload of fireworks destined for a popular July 4 show near Fort Myers exploded at a beachside park Wednesday, killing four workers and injuring two more.

    Witnesses said the sudden and violent explosion left victims scattered throughout the burned wreckage. The semitrailer truck hauling the fireworks was quickly engulfed by multicolored flames.

    Thick, tar-black smoke coiled into the cloudless sky.

    "First it sounded like thunder, a rolling thunder, then we realized it wasn't," said Mary Mike Dearden, a reservation agent at nearby Lovers Key Beach Club and Resort in Bonita Springs. "Then for a second we thought it was some sort of jet, and if it is, then it's in trouble. Then we didn't know what it was."

    Minutes later, guests by the resort pool began pointing at smoke rising over Lovers Key/Carl E. Johnson State Park, site of an annual Fourth of July fireworks show that draws thousands of people.

    "We knew the fireworks were being staged there, and we knew in our hearts that something had happened," Dearden said.

    Bonita Springs City Manager Gary Price said the explosion occurred as the workers were transferring some of the trailer's load to a smaller truck for transport to another show in Naples.

    The names of the four dead and two injured were not released Wednesday night. Of the injured, a man who was severely burned was transferred to the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital. A woman was in good condition at a Fort Myers hospital.

    The cause of the accident remained under investigation Wednesday night.

    "In the process of transferring, breaking down the load, putting part of it on another truck, something set it off and the whole truck blew up," Price said.

    The explosion occurred at Lovers Key, at the north end of Bonita Springs, just south of Fort Myers Beach. The state park consists of a series of islands and marsh, and the crew was unloading the truck at a remote area called the canoe launch. No park visitors were in the area, authorities said.

    Flames and bursting fireworks shot from the truck, setting several small brush fires. Hours after the blast, smoke rose from a blackened pine tree and the charred remains of the two trucks, which had been parked back to back, plus a pickup truck that was parked nearby.

    "It just all happened at once," said Kevin McKenzie, who was mowing grass about 300 feet away. "Immediately it was all the fireworks going off with all the colors and the flames."

    Matt Phillips of Atlanta, who was staying at Island Beach Club condominiums across the street from the park, said he and his son were in the pool when they heard "two loud, distinct booms."

    They thought the noises were nearby thunderclaps and prepared to go inside, but the sky was clear of clouds. A few minutes later they saw the smoke.

    "That's what it felt like, that lighting just struck less than a quarter-mile away," Phillips said. "It's just amazing to think the sound we heard here, and those guys being right there. I can't imagine there being anything left.

    "When we saw the news and saw the tractor-trailer, all you saw was wheels and axles."

    Park employees contacted by the Times said they were told not to discuss the accident, and the park manager could not be reached for comment.

    The fireworks belonged to Sunset Fireworks of St. Louis, a major supplier of professional pyrotechnic displays. According to the company's Web site, past customers include the St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, Walt Disney World, and festivals in Orlando, Chicago and Madison, Wis.

    The company was sued in February by two workers who were injured in explosions that killed two others at a suburban St. Louis fireworks plant in November 1999. Someone who answered the phone there Tuesday said supervisors were en route to Bonita Springs.

    Price said the company orchestrated the city's fireworks display last year, when the fireworks were shot from a barge near the park. The city had spent $20,000 for 30-minute show this year, he said.

    Friday's show at the park has been canceled. The Naples show, which was to be sponsored by the Naples Jaycees, will be postponed until New Year's Eve. Lisa Douglass, past president of the Jaycees, said the group had worked with Sunset for four years, and organizers planned a candlelight vigil Friday to honor the victims.

    "These people that we've lost today are people that we've grown close to," she said. "They put on the best fireworks display, in my opinion, that I've ever seen."

    - Information from the Associated Press and Fort Myers News-Press was used in this report.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  3. #3
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    Default Update

    Local News reports that the fires are still burning today. Fire Department Officials are not certain that all the ordinance detonated and therefore are being cautious as to where they operate on the fireground. Local news footage from aerial cameras showed smoke still rising from the site as fire department units poured water on from a distance.

    Additionally, a 5th person that was transported to the Burn Unit at Tampa General Hospital has died today.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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