Bob Wise, Governor
Conservation Officers Set Up Safety Zone During Parkersburg Homecoming Fireworks Display Explosion
Conservation officers from the Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement District 6 office in Parkersburg were on river patrol on the Ohio River when a fireworks display went out of control during the Parkersburg Homecoming celebration August 16, and were responsible for the safety of nearby spectators and fireworks staff, according to District 6 Captain Tom Wasmer. Conservation Officers assigned were Sgt. H. E. Shaver, Officer First Class Chris McKnight, and Conservation Officers Matt Barkley and Shane Duffield.
Approximately 50,000 people were lining the shorelines on both the West Virginia and Ohio sides of the river, and about 750 recreational boaters and two commercial passenger vessels were near the site of the fireworks, which were to be set off from a barge connected to a tow boat located mid-river. About one minute into the display a 10-inch shell malfunctioned, causing a large explosion and fire aboard the fireworks barge, resulting in a chain-reaction series of detonations to the approximately 3,800 fireworks shells. The explosions lasted several minutes and sent shells and burning debris in all directions.
Conservation officers on two patrol boats, working with local law enforcement agencies, had established a safety zone in the river and on shore at Point Park . After the explosions started, the conservation officers were in contact with the tow boat pilot and crew and the fireworks crew, and checked the safety of recreational boaters while fire and emergency personnel responded. They also assisted with the movement of all recreational boaters and unloading of passengers from the commercial vessels until the area was cleared.
An investigation is being conducted by the State Fire Marshall's Office. No one was hurt, and damage is still being assessed. The cause is still being investigated, but it appears to be accidental. The Zambelli Fireworks Co. of New Castle, Pennsylvania , was the vendor and is conducting an internal investigation as well.
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