Several Injured After Malfunction At Fourth Of July Fireworks Show In Poteau

POTEAU, Okla. (KFSM) -- Every year the City of Poteau holds their firework show display on land near the water tower just north of main streets. The land has several homes around it. People who live there often have friends and family over to sit in their yards to get an up close look at the show. Others park along the street or watch from nearby.

The property surrounding where the cannons holding hundreds of large fireworks are set up is private property. The Poteau City Fire Chief said folks can be there. But he did say he warns them every year of possible danger.

On this 4th of July of 2018, a malfunction in one of the cannons  caused around eight large fireworks to disperse into the crowd of people instead of up in the air, according to the fire chief.

Jennifer Combs and her girlfriend Rhonda Lamadrid were watching the show from across the street. She said the blanket they were sitting on has holes in it from the sparks. She said people were screaming and she ran. She was hit in the back with fireworks leaving two holes in her shirt she said, and an injury on her left arm.

"It's under here in the bandage. It's big and black," she said. "We were looking up and all of a sudden out of nowhere shrapnel or fireworks, what ever it was started aiming at our faces. Everybody was running and screaming and it was mayhem around here."

The Leflore County EMS Director Jeff Fischel said three people were taken to the hospital by ambulance including one child.

"Real minor burns, is mostly what we saw. Nothing serious. Nothing severe. Mostly debris from a firework coming down on them," he said. "They went to the local hospital. To the best of my knowledge everybody got released."

In addition to the Poteau Fire Department who was on standby, Leflore County EMS activated their protocol of an emergency situation and dispatched three ambulances to the scene and set up a command center immediately.

Some homeowners who live near where the display is set off said they would like to see the show stay where it is despite the mishap.

The Poteau fire chief is the only person certified to detonate the fireworks and said he re-certifies himself to do so every three years.

City leaders said they have discussed moving the show to a different location in the past and will now discuss it again.