Graduation fireworks mishap an 'accident'

Jun 4, 2012 Full story: News 4 Jax

They go off from the end zones regularly at Baker County High School football games and graduations.

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Foundation Savers

Cortland, NY

#1 Jun 6, 2012
Watch now they will have to admit none of these idiots have the proper shooting papers to be doing mortars at graduations. No pros would be dumb enough to loadup mortars pointing into a crowd. This is why you don't let the sort of people who gravitate toward authority and fire play with starting them. Usually they just stand around and make like dumbasses with the questions they ask now they're taking control themselves and almost killing people. Can't wait to see who the ATF charges and who gets sued from having a shell delay into the middle of a highschool graduation crowd. Way to go!

Several people were injured when a wayward piece of fireworks detonated under bleachers with hundreds of people sitting in them during the Baker County High School graduation ceremony Friday night.

Mike Wawzynski was among the crowd in the stands of the Baker High football stadium off Wildcat Drive in Glen St. Mary to see his son Keano graduate with hundreds of others friends and families of other graduates. He said that after diplomas had been issued, a celebratory firework set off as part of the festivities went horribly wrong.

"It landed right underneath our feet and exploded and knocked us, it shook us, like a bomb going off," Wawzynski said, adding his hands were "numb" and about another half dozen people around him had some injuries, too, including his wife, ex-wife and another woman he could not identify.

Wawzynski said the commencement had culminated with the graduating students and faculty of Baker High choreographing a so-called "flash mob" scene where they were dancing on the field and stage to the recording of pop star Katy Perry's song "Firework" as darkness fell over the ceremony about 9 p.m. As the song began, there was an orchestrated ignition of fireworks near the scoreboard.

Wawzynski said a couple of the firework mortars launched hundreds of feet into the air and exploded as they should have. But he said one of the shells had a delayed explosion and the firework shell landed under the bleachers, where he was sitting in the front row. He said when the mortar landed under the stands beneath hundreds of people, it detonated.

"I was about 4 to 5 inches from it when it went off," Wawzynski said. "You could see the green flares fly out. It wasn't just an explosive firework, it was the kind that had the green flower."

Officials with the Macclenny Fire Rescue Department reached Saturday morning said they had just relieved the previous shift and had no information regarding the incident. Macclenny firefighters were actually in charge of lighting the fireworks display.

Baker County Fire Chief Richard Dolan confirmed the incident involving the faulty firework happened Friday. But he said ultimately the fire investigation falls under the jurisdiction of the Macclenny Fire Rescue Department.

David Richardson, director of Baker County Emergency Services, said no injuries were life-threatening and no one was transported to any area hospitals.

Richardson acknowledged it's one of the strangest incidents he's heard of.

"I was surprised," he said. "To have anything like that is rare.... There are some conflicting stories out there and everyone's trying to figure out what happened."

Richardson added Macclenny firefighters have handled many fireworks displays in the past without incident.

Wawzynski said the handling of the fireworks display was a mess.

"It seemed ill-prepared," he said.

Wawzynski said he didn't see any of the victims injured in the incident transferred by ambulance to local hospitals. But police and firefighters rushed into the crowd in the bleachers to quickly treat the wounded. The graduating students and high school faculty stopped dancing and cleared the field while the fireworks display was halted.

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