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HUBBARD Fireworks accident probed



Published: Mon, July 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Investigators returned to the scene this morning, and the remaining fireworks were set off.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

HUBBARD -- State and local fire investigators returned to Harding Park this morning to determine how 15 spectators were injured in Sunday night's Founder's Day fireworks celebration.

Errant pyrotechnics near the festival crowd caused the injuries about 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Spectators said it appeared a firework touched the ground. This was the sixth year for the event in Harding Park in Hubbard Township.

Nick Bucci, 67, of Fox Street said he was standing in the crowd watching the fireworks with his wife, Marjorie Bucci, 63. With him were his daughter, grandson, son-in-law and his daughter's friend. All of a sudden there was a loud explosion.

"I heard it and then, next thing I know I'm on the ground," he said today. "I came to, I looked up. I saw somebody holding my wife, and they just were yelling at me to lay back down. I don't know what happened, but it ripped my pants."

His wife has been admitted to St. Elizabeth Health Center and is quite bruised, he said.

"It was a great fireworks display. I don't know what happened. I'm not blaming anybody -- it's just one of those things."

Taken to area hospitals

St. Elizabeth's, in Youngstown, received nine of the victims, with most complaining of burns and ringing in their ears.

Bucci said the hands of his daughter, Michele Fox, 30, of Fox Street, were cut and bruised. Grandson Alex Fox, 3, had a headache and ringing in ears, was checked out at the hospital and is OK, he said. Chris Fox, 35, same address, also experienced headache and ringing in the ears.

Six victims were taken to Forum Health Northside Medical Center. Five were treated, and the sixth was transferred to University Hospital burn unit in Akron.

Tracy Mroski, 30, of Liberty Street had multiple burns, lacerations and abrasions, according to Rural Metro Ambulance. She was taken to Akron, and Hubbard Mayor George Praznik said her leg looked very bad. "It looked like she had a puncture wound."

J. David Schroeder, pyrotechnics and explosives chief with the state fire marshal's office, said witnesses are still being located so that they and the injured people can be interviewed to determine what happened.

State fire marshals officials observed this morning as the fire department detonated, rather than disarmed, the remaining fireworks. The fireworks for the final 10 minutes of the show -- the grand finale -- were exploded today; about 30 minutes of the show went on last night.

Van Burnett of Ravenna bought the fireworks from Keystone Fireworks of Dunbar, Pa., and signed a contract with the city of Hubbard in February, according to city records. He was bonded up to $1 million by Farollon Associates of San Francisco.

Witness

Tod Coonce, township police chief, said at the scene this morning that he and his family were watching the fireworks last night when all of a sudden he heard a woman screaming.

"I didn't know what was going on but I knew the screams weren't from the enjoyment of the show. It sounded like someone was hurt," he said.

Coonce said the Hubbard fire district trucks were on the scene and were able to reach the victims in a matter of seconds. "I think having the firetrucks so close really minimized the situation," he said.

Fire Chief David Kyle said paramedics with Rural Metro and Brookfield Fire Department helped take the injured to local hospitals.

Kyle and Coonce said they are not sure what caused the accident. Officials did not have a complete list of victims' names this morning.

Township Trustee Fred Hanley said people were hysterical and one woman said she never wanted to return to Harding Park. He said he hopes this year's problem doesn't keep people away from future events.




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