Update 5:46 p.m..: Injury count rises
Los Robles Hospital has said it treated and released 8 victims of Thursday's fireworks mishap in Simi Valley. Twenty-six others were treated at Simi Valley Hospital, and Providence Holy Cross Medical Center treated two others, bringing the total injured to at least 36.
Update 2:55 p.m.: Simi Valley police investigate fireworks accident that left scores injured
Simi Valley police were investigating what went wrong at a fireworks show on Thursday when the pyrotechnics shot into the crowd and injured at least 28 people, four seriously.
Between 8,000 and 10,000 revelers were settling into their seats for the fireworks extravaganza at Rancho Santa Susana Park in Simi Valley when the spectacle of lights that were supposed to be launched in the sky instead burst and spread across the ground.
Preliminary reports showed that a wooden platform holding the fireworks might have given way and tipped.
"Our detective unit is working as well as the fire department, the fire marshall, and then also the Ventura County Bomb Squad," said Simi Valley Police Department's Sgt. Tom Meyer.
Ventura County Fire Capt. Mike Lindberry said at least 28 people were treated on the scene Thursday night.
Lindberry said several other people did not wait for help and instead drove themselves directly to the hospital. Simi Valley Hospital, for instance, had 12 patients who arrived by private vehicle.
The Bay Fireworks pyrotechnics team, hired by the Simi Valley Rotary Club to put on the show, has apologized, saying it deeply regrets the injuries and accident.
The company, based in Bethpage, N.Y., has produced events for NASA, Walt Disney World, Legoland and the Republican National Convention, according to the company's website.
The company said that injured spectators should contact the Simi Valley Rotary Club to reach the company's insurer.
Meyer said that in addition to determining the cause of the accident, investigators are looking at what safety precautions were taken.
"I could tell you that there was a chain-linked fence between the field and the crowd in the park. Obviously fireworks got through that so I think it's something they're going to have to revisit," Meyer said.
Lindberry said there is a general rule of thumb for keeping spectators at a safe distance from the pyrotechnics. For every inch of diameter in mortar size, the crowd must be back at least 70 feet. In this case, the largest mortar was five inches, meaning the crowd had to be back at least 350 feet, and the site plan called for that, Lindberry said.
Police said the crowd of people were about 900 feet away from where the fireworks were launched.
Videos on YouTube show the accident unfold from multiple angles.
Four people were listed in serious condition, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening. Simi Valley Police said 16 more people were taken to hospitals with minor to moderate injuries. The remainder were treated at the park where emergency crews, already on hand as a safety precaution, set up a triage area.
One police officer who ran into the crowd when the blasts occurred had shrapnel tear through his leather belt and his clothing, Shannon said. He had minor injuries to his back.
Shannon said most people responded admirably and left in an orderly fashion. A bomb squad at the park deactivated the remainder of the fireworks.
Shannon said the fireworks primarily shot in one direction.
"They are going to travel the same distance across the park as they would in the air," she said. "The ones that had actually ignited that had to run their fuse were going directly into the crowd."
The annual July Fourth celebration has been sponsored by the city and the Simi Valley Rotary Club for the past 43 years.
Simi Valley Police said the Rotary Club of Simi Valley utilized Bay Fireworks to handle this year’s pyrotechnics during the show. This is the second year that the Rotary Club has worked with Bay Fireworks.
The Simi Valley Police Department said the people injured ranged in age from 8 years to 78 years old.
Simi Valley, home to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, is about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
This story has been updated.