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Fireworks company Pyrotecnico initiates probe into Apollo mishap

| Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

The head of the company that put on Apollo's Fourth of July fireworks show is having a hard time believing that the shell that injured spectators came from its display.

New Castle-based Pyrotecnico is starting its own investigation into the Thursday incident at Owens Field “because ballistically, a lot of things don't add up,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Vitale said on Monday.

Brooke Wright, 14, of Kiski Township suffered burns to her legs in an apparent explosion in or near the stands during the Apollo Salute to the Armed Forces program. She went home Friday after being treated in the burn unit at UPMC Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh.

Two other children were treated and released from Allegheny Valley Hospital, Harrison, spokeswoman Linda Dalak said. Their identifies were not released. No other injuries were known.

Wright's mother, Lisa Culp, referred questions to her attorney, Mark Milsop, with the Pittsburgh firm Berger and Green, which specializes in injury and disability cases. Milsop did not respond to a request for comment.

Apollo Mayor Karen Kenzevich said borough police are investigating the incident but are waiting for a report from Pyrotecnico.

Vitale said Pyrotecnico's safety team and insurance company are investigating the incident. He said his firm will bring in independent investigators with experience in ballistics, fireworks and “these types of incidents.”

A Pyrotecnico technician was launching the fireworks from a baseball field adjacent to the stadium, nearly 500 feet away from the bleachers, Vitale said. He said the mortars were aimed away from the crowd.

The technician was not aware of any malfunctions at the firing site, and the show continued and concluded, Vitale said.

“From our standpoint, a lot isn't adding up. We're struggling to believe it came from the fireworks display,” Vitale said. “There were no catastrophic detonations of product sent into the crowd. The distance between the incident and the actual fireworks location was far beyond the safety boundaries that are required.”

Vince Mazzon, chairman of the Apollo Salute to the Armed Forces committee, did not return a call for comment.

Vitale said his company hopes to have its investigation completed within a week or two. The company has said it will share its findings with the public.

“We want to get to the bottom of it, and we will,” Vitale said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 orbrittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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