Roy fireworks aftermath: 'dramatic and traumatic'

Monday , August 04, 2014 - 4:37 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

ROY — It was like a movie.

There was a hissing sound, silence — then kids screaming.

Niki Richardson, a Roy resident, said the experience Saturday night was “dramatic and traumatic.”

Richardson sat in her uncle’s front lawn Saturday night for the annual Roy Day’s firework display. It was late, but her nieces and nephews still had enough energy to be pacing back and forth against the fence that separated the front lawn and the road.

“Just as we told the kids to sit down so that we could watch the show, I heard my brother yell,”run“ just as I saw a big red flash run right in front of us,” Richardson said. “Everything went bright and quiet. Then I heard kids screaming.”

All the kids had run to the back of the house, each of them were hit twice by errant fireworks.

Hundreds were gathered on the grassy field of Roy West Park observing a firework display many are calling crazy. After the clapping and cheering for the grand finale, three fireworks exploded and shot across the 4800 South Street, according to witnesses.

The fireworks display was contracted out to Fireworks West Internationale, according to Roy City Fire Chief Jason Poulsen. The pyrotechnic company has been in business for nearly 50 years, and set off a number of large firework shows in the area including Freedom Fire, the Independence Day Celebration and Fireworks Show at Romney Stadium in Logan. The company also did nightly fireworks displays in Salt Lake City and Park City for the 2002 Winter Olympic ceremonies. 

Poulsen said the problems at the end of the show happened so fast it is hard to tell what went wrong. Right now they believe one mortar didn’t fire correctly and the other fireworks timed to go off behind them hit that mortar causing others to shoot off in another direction. Some of the mortars ended up exploding on the ground before even shooting out of the tubes.

The city doesn't plan to change anything about the fireworks show in the future, according to Poulsen who called the incident a “rarity” adding that this is just the “unknown risk of explosives.”

“It was completely unexpected,” said Alison Carver, a Clinton resident who attends every year. “Ashes were falling, and you could feel the heat from the fireworks. They were just way too close — way too close.”

Carver sat right behind the police barricade with her group of friends. She had initially sat closer until her father called concerned after seeing a similar situation occur “in the middle of the show, which I thought was a fluke.”

“It was certainly exciting,” said Roy resident Dorian Kunzler, who has attended Roy Days for many years. “A crowd of people were caught off guard. It is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that happen.” Kunzler explained that after the default fireworks exploded he also heard screaming, so he walked to check on people about the same time emergency crews who were stationed across the street arrived on scene.

Richardson has a 7-year-old niece whose hair caught fire. Medical crews recommended she be transported, but because “she was scared” she was immediately taken by relatives to Davis Hospital emergency room with burns to her forehead. She returned Sunday morning after complaining of small burns on her arm and leg that had not been seen before.

“She was in a daze Saturday night ... so we returned to the hospital for precautionary reasons,” said Richardon, adding that the young girl was at that time also examined by mental health doctors.

Richarson’s 9-year-old niece got hit in the ear where it took a little bit of skin off. She also has a small burn to her ankle. Her 11-year-old nephew had a “pin-point cut” to his arm from what she believes to be a shard of shell that exploded. Her brother got hit in the stomach which caused burns to his shirt and stomach. Her 13-year-old daughter was injured also with a burn to her thigh.

“It just peppered us and did not explode on us,” Richardson said. “The blankets are burnt, but they are replaceable — people are not.”

Witnesses say early on in the show a series of fireworks exploded low to the ground, which caught the brush below on fire starting several mini fires in the area. But Kunzler said he was not concerned knowing fire crews were nearby.

Fire crews say it could have been much worse if they weren't prepared. 

“We were prepared, it went really well, “ Poulsen said regarding how strategically placed responders were. “Spectators are our number one goal,” Poulsen said.

The errant fireworks display caused six small areas of grass fires, according to the fire department, but crews were in place and put out the flames before they could endanger structures or people.

“It is just an unfortunate thing and thankfully everyone is fine,” he said adding that the man in charge of lighting off the fireworks said he hadn't seen that happen for a very long time.

Earlier in the day fire crews already extended the crowd perimeter to 25 feet beyond the typical 350 feet from where the display is going on. So crews felt they were being extra conservative.

Poulsen said some things can’t be planned for.

“If you have one instead of going up in the air, hits one (firework) and just missiles toward the crowd … then goes sideways and that sends it even further.”

The Standard-Examiner attempted to contact Fireworks West Internationale, but no phone calls or emails were returned on Sunday evening.

The website for Fireworks West Internationale based in Logan, Utah states when it comes to variety they are at the top of the list, providing an array of all kinds of different fireworks.

“We promise that when you buy from us your show will be unique.”

Contact reporter Morgan Briesmaster at 801-625-4268 or Follow her on Twitter at @SE_mbriesmaster. Like her Facebook page at

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