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Fireworks accidents across U.S. kill five

Mon., July 6, 2009

North Carolina truck explosion claims lives of four workers

OCRACOKE, N.C. – Five people working on Independence Day fireworks shows were killed by explosions, four of them by a single blast that rocked this remote village on the Outer Banks.

The fifth died after an explosion at a fireworks show in Pennsylvania, police said.

In another holiday accident, a pedestrian bridge collapsed in Indiana as fans were leaving a fireworks show, injuring 25 people. Authorities said Sunday the crowd had overloaded the bridge.

The blast at Ocracoke came as workers were unloading fireworks Saturday from a truck at the Anchorage Marina, shaking homes and businesses across the southern end of Ocracoke Island and rattling residents and tourists.

Earl Woodham, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said agents determined the cause was accidental. ATF will not investigate further, but a workplace safety agency such as the state Labor Department likely will try to find the specific cause, he said.

Dock master Robert Raborn was about 200 yards away from the truck and said the explosion was one of the loudest things he had ever heard.

“It was like 40 minutes worth of fireworks going off in four seconds,” Raborn said.

One of the workers died at the scene Saturday and three others died later at area hospitals, including one who died on Sunday, said Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell.

Another person was listed in fair condition at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill.

Meanwhile, a silent parade was held Sunday in tribute to the victims and the people who responded to the explosion, following the intended route of Saturday’s Independence Day parade.

In Pennsylvania, state police fire marshals were investigating the death of a worker Saturday at the start of the grand finale of fireworks at Quakertown’s Memorial Park.

Quakertown Police Chief Scott McElree said authorities immediately halted the show and evacuated part of the park in eastern Pennsylvania.

At Merrillville, Ind., the collapse of a wooden pedestrian bridge dropped at least 50 people into a lake Saturday night and injured about half of them, police said. None of the injuries was life-threatening, authorities said.

The collapse occurred at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville, about 45 miles southeast of Chicago, as spectators were leaving a fireworks display at about 10 p.m.

The wooden, cable-suspended bridge could support about 40 people at a time but as many as 80 were on it when it gave way, said Ross Township Trustee John Rooda, who attended the fireworks show. The township operates the park.

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