Dover fireworks display ends abruptly after malfunction, explosion

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Jul. 5—Dover's firework show Sunday night came to an abrupt end after a malfunction caused an explosion, but the hired crew members were all safe.

About 15 minutes into the 25-minute display at Garrison Hill, one the 6-inch shells failed to completely launch and fell on the trailer rack, igniting other fireworks and causing the explosion, according to Recreation Director Gary Bannon.

A significant portion of the fireworks — minus the finale — all ignited at once, he said.

"You heard this 'boom' and it looked just like spaghetti," he said. Everything just went everywhere."

Bannon watched from a nearby parking lot and knew something was wrong.

The crew from Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group of Jaffrey quickly dispersed and ducked for cover, Bannon said. The display was halted for the safety of the crew, according to a statement from the town.

Dover Fire and Rescue, already stationed at the site as a precaution, quickly extinguished the remaining fireworks racks on the ground. Dover police also responded.

"Fortunately, nobody got hit with anything," Bannon said. "When the dust settled things were everywhere."

Spectators were not allowed at the park. Usually 8,000 to 10,000 people attend the Fourth of July festivities in the city.

The fireworks, which before the COVID-19 pandemic were launched from Maglaras Park, were moved to Garrison Hill this year to prevent large crowds from gathering all at one spot. The spot allowed the show to be viewed at multiple locations across the city. The move was planned months ago.

The debris scattered across the field and firefighters even had to use a ladder truck to remove some from the top of a concrete water tank on Monday. With some of the grass scorched, the park reopened around 11:30 a.m. Monday. A section of fence in the city's new community garden will have to be replaced.

Matt Shea, vice president at Atlas, said such malfunctions are very rare and the company's training and remote electrical firing devices kept the crew safe.

"We're happy no one was injured," he said.

"It is really not taking fireworks for granted and being safe," he said.

The same crew was scheduled to light off fireworks in Portsmouth Monday night.

Bannon said anything involving explosives is simply unpredictable.

The state Fire Marshal's Office was notified of the incident.

Bannon said the city will have conversations with Atlas about compensation for the show, but the display likely won't be rescheduled. He said next year's show might include some additional features.

He said the company has worked with the city for more than 20 years and has a strong safety record.

"It was a pretty significant explosion, but it's a miracle no one got hit with anything," Bannon said.

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