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At first some spectators thought the mass of fireworks going off at the same time was all part of the show but when things got quiet it was obvious something went wrong.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig says a firework exploded too low to the ground sending an ember into a container full of fireworks, “It created a chain reaction between the 3, 4, and 5 inch shells which are all housed in separate totes.”
Two volunteers with the show suffered severe burns and were taken to University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. Herrig believes not much could have been done to prevent what happened. “I think it was a freak accident; people that were transferred to the hospital were fairly close to the ready boxes which is probably why they ended up getting burnt.”
Scraps of firework casings litter the launch site. Many of those pieces flew into Paul Heinen who said it “Felt like hail stones hitting you in the back.”
Heinen has helped organized the community show for 40 years. He says when the explosion happened, he turned his back to the fire and with no shelter to be had, he sat on the ground until it was over, “It all happened so fast, you didn’t have time to get scared.”
Heinen is one of three volunteers who were treated for minor injuries and released. No spectators were injured.
KU Medical Center says one of the victims, Julie Durand, from rural Ozawkie, is in fair condition. The hospital did not release any information on the other victim, who Herrig says is Jeremy Kaad, from Valley Falls.