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Police seek blood sample from fireworks worker after deadly blast

July 28, 1997

CHARLEVOIX, Mich. (AP) _ A popular weekend festival turned deadly when a trailer full of fireworks exploded and sent chunks of metal, plastic and wood hurtling into a terrified crowd. One man was killed and 15 others injured.

``It was scary as hell,″ witness David Campbell said after Saturday night’s blast. ``It was like a terrorist attack.″

At least seven people were still hospitalized today, one in critical condition. Coast Guard officials said the injuries included severed limbs and shattered bones, though hospital officials declined to give details.

One of four people operating the fireworks refused to take a breath test for alcohol and have his car searched, State Police Sgt. Mike Tilley said. Police have impounded his vehicle and were seeking a blood sample.

``He had been drinking, and admitted he had been drinking,″ Tilley said. The man’s name was not released.

The blast shattered windows in nearby buildings, put a hole in a ferry and damaged a Coast Guard cutter.

The fireworks were set up by Fireworks North. Scott Beatty, a lawyer for the company’s founder, declined to comment.

Mark Yager, 43, a spectator, was killed when he was hit in the head by a flying piece of metal, police said. The show continued as operators did not realize the extent of the injuries.

``There was a huge mushroom cloud of smoke,″ said spectator Michelle Start of Grand Rapids. ``The ground shook and our hair tingled.″

Saying they would like to view video of the accident, authorities asked anyone who recorded the show to come forward.

``We’re trying to determine what went wrong,″ State Police Lt. Richard Killips said Sunday. ``We don’t have a reason why the explosion occurred.″

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