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Another big blast, and a couple unfortunate misfires

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Staff writer

Although many in the capacity crowd who attended Monday’s 95th annual fireworks celebration in Peabody thought the show was spectacular, the finale was marred by aerial fireworks mishaps during the finale.

During an aerial display set to the tune of “The Battle of New Orleans,” two commercial Roman candles sailed horizontally a few feet above the ground. The first shell to fly toward the crowd triggered a temporary halt to the show, but the fireworks display soon resumed.

The second shell landed where a family had sat before running for safety. Landing next to a blanket, the shell burned on the ground. It was stomped out by bystanders before emergency personnel hurried up to make sure everyone was OK.

“There was a small burn on one man’s arm, but he did not seek medical attention,” Police Chief Bruce Burke said.

“To the best of my knowledge no one was hurt due to the flaming projectile,” said Larry Larsen, paramedic and mayor of Peabody.

In an unrelated call earlier, a girl was reported burned in the bleachers, far from where the shell landed in the crowd.

“I had my ambulance radio with me and I heard a little girl had her arm burned at the south edge of the bleachers. I went and stood on top of the bleachers and listened for ‘Help, help,’” Larsen said. “I asked, ‘Where’s the injured child?’ and she was at the fire truck. An ember fell from the sky and landed on her arm.”

The crowd was told early during the show that the aerials were not rising as high as expected and to watch out for themselves and those around them.

Brian McDowell, fireworks coordinator for the show, said in the years since he began helping with the show, no similar incident has happened.

“We’re thankful that we didn’t have any reportable injuries,” McDowell said. “I found the people who were sitting there, and somebody said, ‘It came between us.’”

Organizers know which firework malfunctioned, he said.

“The incident will be considered when deciding what fireworks to order next year,” McDowell said.

Monday’s scant breeze and high humidity caused smoke to conceal much of the ground displays and billow over the crowd. Many aerials failed to shoot as high as expected and often dropped cinders – some still glowing – onto spectators.

“Unfortunately in July the wind comes sometimes out of the south,” McDowell said.

Last modified July 7, 2016

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