July 4, 1997 in Nation/World

Fireworks Explosion Kills One Blast On Barge During Show Injures 1, Leaves 2 Missing

Associated Press
 

A barge loaded with fireworks exploded during a July 4th display on the Mississippi River Thursday night, killing one person and leaving two others missing.

Another person who had been on the barge for the 9:30 p.m. blast was hurt, while a fifth person escaped injury, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Julius Tatum.

The dead man’s body was found on the barge.

Coast Guard boats searched the river for the two missing people as firefighters extinguished the blaze. The nearby Alton Belle casino used searchlights to light the water for rescuers.

Witnesses said the fireworks show had been going on for 10 or 15 minutes when the barge lit up in a big white glow.

The injured man was conscious when he arrived at St. Anthony’s Hospital with a leg injury, said spokeswoman Diane Schuette.

The man told doctors the blast “blew him about 10 to 15 feet away, and he made his way to a ledge on the boat and was rescued,” Schuette said.

Coroner Dallas Burke watched the display from her home but couldn’t see the explosion.

“I was sitting in my chair in my living room, and the fireworks just didn’t last as long as they should, so I knew something was wrong. There was not the big finale that there usually is,” she said.

Alton is just north of St. Louis across the Mississippi River.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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