Fireworks safety criticised

By Jimmy Ellingham, Lynley Bilby

Onlooker at long weekend display at wharf says pontoon site might have avoided injuries.
An unexpected wind shift caused sparks to drift onto the crowd watching the anniversary weekend display. Photo / Michael Craig
An unexpected wind shift caused sparks to drift onto the crowd watching the anniversary weekend display. Photo / Michael Craig

Screams rang out as hot embers fell on startled, skywards-gazing spectators at an Auckland Anniversary weekend fireworks display, a witness says.

The Sunday night display went off to a full-to-brimming Captain Cook Wharf audience, estimated at 6000.

But four people needed treatment by ambulance staff for suspected eye injuries and one woman was taken to Auckland City Hospital after a wind shift blew sparks across the crowd.

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Timo Koen said he didn't think the wharf was a good place for fireworks, as only about 50m separated the public from the launching spot.

"When the fireworks started everyone noticed that sparks and burning pieces were falling down on the people watching," he said.

"I felt this myself and almost wasn't able to look into the sky. After about one minute some people started screaming and trying to get to a safer spot."

Mr Koen, who studies safety and security management in the Netherlands, said the organisers "should have stopped the fireworks".

Ports of Auckland Boom Boom Fireworks put on the display.

Mr Koen said he thought those in charge should have launched the fireworks from a pontoon on the water to put more distance between the pyrotechnics and the crowd.

"In the end, the fireworks were beautiful, but this should have never happened."

A WorkSafe NZ spokeswoman said it hadn't been notified of any fireworks-related incidents, and Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball said such notification wasn't required because the injuries were minor.

"We are reviewing the night's events with our event organiser and the fireworks company and any decision on whether or not to use them again will be made after that review."

Earlier, Mr Ball said an unexpected change in wind direction had put spectators at risk so the display ended early.

Mr Ball confirmed it was the first time the company has used Boom Boom Fireworks.

Boom Boom Fireworks managing director Richard Mangos said it was the firm's policy not to give information to the press.

- NZ Herald

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