By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — As officials continue to investigate the cause of a ground-level detonation during Naugatuck’s fireworks show, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said early signs point to faulty equipment.
“Very preliminary indications look like product failure,” said Hess, as he spoke with reporters Friday morning at Breen Field, the site of the display and explosion.
Hundreds of people gathered downtown to watch the fireworks Thursday. The show started at 9:30 p.m., but there was a loud explosion about 10 minutes in and the fireworks stopped.
Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister said there was a detonation at the ground level where the fireworks display was set up about halfway through the show.
The remaining fireworks were fired off at about midnight. Officials said this was done to dispose of them safely.
Burn marks could be seen Friday on part of the field on Hotchkiss Street where the fireworks display was set up. The explosion also damaged a nearby fence and sponsor signs that hang on the fence.
Officials said no one was injured.
(Officials released the above video of the explosion.)
Hess said this is the first time something went wrong with the fireworks during his five years as mayor.
“It could’ve been a million times worse,” Hess said.
Naugatuck Fire Marshal Dave Hardt said his office is working together with the State Police Fire and Explosion Investigative Unit and Naugatuck police to determine exactly what led to the explosion. He said state police are taking the lead on the investigation because the show was licensed through the state.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses awarded a contract in March for $15,000 to Central Maine Pyrotechnics Maine to put on the fireworks show. The contract also included $5,000 for an additional show sometime from September to December.
Central Maine Pyrotechnics Vice President Anthony Marson said a possible cause for the malfunction could have been a faulty lift charge that didn’t project the shells skyward. It’s possible, he said, a shell went about 10 feet in the air, came back down and displaced another pod. This could have caused a chain reaction and detonated several other shells, he said.
Marson said a crew of 10 people were at the control system about 100 feet away. A few technicians fired the shells electronically and there was no human error, he said.
Marson said Friday there hadn’t been money exchange yet.
Hess said he plans to discuss the matter with the company.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.