Fireworks explosion witness: 'It blew up, out, and every which direction'

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) - A pyrotechnics employee is out of the hospital after being hurt when a fireworks show didn't go as planned in North Myrtle Beach. The annual fireworks display was cut short after Zambelli Fireworks, the company in charge of the show, said one of the shells malfunctioned minutes into the show. That led to an explosion on the Cherry Grove Pier Thursday night.

The employee suffered from cuts, bruises and burns after the accident, according to City of North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling.

Friday afternoon all was back to normal at Cherry Grove Pier. Dozens of people cast their bait into the water, with the hope of catching a fish. There were few signs a fireworks show that's become a decade long tradition for many locals and visiting families had an unexpected explosion. About 5,000 people gathered in Cherry Grove to watch the display.

"It was really great when it first started. Everybody got excited, and then that last explosion. Everybody, I think most people, just thought it was part of the show. But within a few minutes, we heard rescue squad," explained James Hardee. "It blew up out and every which direction on the far inside of the pier, and first thing I thought was it was just like something out of a movie. That some firework had landed in the big pile, and the whole pile went up."

The explosion injured one person who was working the fireworks show. It damaged the railing and blew a gaping hole into the pier It's now been fixed by staff.

"These are major explosives however, and it's a testimony to Zambelli fireworks that what occurred didn't get out of hand," said Dowling. "We're sorry we had to cut the show short, but primarily what we're thankful for is that the worker, although injured, was not seriously harmed."

Rather than remove the remaining fireworks, they were set off later Thursday night.

"Zambelli Fireworks, in their defense, I guess is a well-known, national firm. They've done hundreds of these shows. Our fire department is investigating to try and determine what actually occurred with that one shell," added Dowling.

Mike Niedzwecki with Zambelli Fireworks says the company is also doing its own investigation into what happened.

Dowling said next year's fireworks show will likely happen, but ultimately the final decision is up to North Myrtle Beach City Council.