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Leechburg carnival will have fireworks a year after police chief’s accident

August 8, 2018

The fireworks will go on in Leechburg despite an accident last year that amputated the former police chief’s arm.

Brian Scott, president of the Leechburg Volunteer Fire Co., said fire company officers debated whether to have fireworks at their annual carnival this year after last summer’s accident that severely injured former police Chief Michael Diebold.

Scott said the fire company consulted with its insurance carrier’s risk management staff, the fire company’s attorney, and county government about the fireworks display.

Insurance certificates and a contract have been written to emphasize safety, he said.

And, unlike last year when Diebold was working largely alone to set off the fireworks, the company hired to do the show this year will have two fireworks technicians and the company president, himself, on site.

Schaefer Fireworks, based near Lancaster, was hired to do the show.

The company was cited by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for an accident at one of its shows eight years ago in eastern Pennsylvania.

Kimmel Schaefer, the company’s president, said that incident was the last insurance claim against his company. OSHA records show no incidents involving the company since then.

According to OSHA, Schaefer employees were firing 3-inch shells and one malfunctioned and exploded at ground level. It blew apart the mortar tube and wooden rack housing the firework and prematurely lit some other aerial shells. One or more exploded at ground level.

Shrapnel caused injury to one employee on July 4, 2010, according to the OSHA report.

The employee “didn’t require medical care,” Schaefer said.

Nevertheless, the company was fined about $4,700 by OSHA and the violation was classified as a serious case.

Schaefer said all professional fireworks companies have to watch out for debris falling outside the planned area and the impact of wind gusts as well as malfunctioning fireworks.

Schaefer Fireworks sets off about 160 fireworks shows a year. On July 4th this year, the company set off sky shows in 40 communities, Schaefer said.

Although Pennsylvania doesn’t require a license, the company is registered with the state attorney general’s office and is licensed in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia.

According to Insurance Journal Magazine, there were eight deaths and almost 13,000 injuries attributed to fireworks in the United States last year. Less than one percent of the injuries were related to public fireworks displays, according to the magazine.

The last time a public fireworks display resulted in an injury locally was five years ago, when a 14-year-old girl was burned by an errant firework during a display at Owens Field in Kiski Township.

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