Apollo to present Salute to the Armed Forces with fireworks on July 4

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 8:00 a.m.

The Apollo Salute to the Armed Forces will be held again this year, complete with a fireworks display, although it's still not known how a girl was burned at last year's show.

For this year, the July 4 event has been moved from Owens Field to the Apollo Plaza.

Fireworks will be launched over the Kiski River from the opposite bank, said Vince Mazzon, chairman of the committee that stages the event.

Mazzon said New Castle-based Pyrotecnico will again be used for the fireworks display.

Pyrotecnico declared it would investigate the apparent accident at the 2013 Salute to the Armed Forces, in which 14-year-old Brooke Wright suffered second-degree burns to her legs during the fireworks show at Owens Field.

The company said it would share its findings with the public, but never has. Pyrotecnico President and CEO Stephen Vitale did not respond to several calls for comment. Jennifer Mason, an attorney representing Pyrotecnico, also did not return calls for comment.

No other agencies or authorities are known to have looked into it.

Mazzon said he's been told the company is still investigating.

“It was an accident,” Mazzon said. “We asked the opinion of people in town here (on whether to continue). The people we talked to saw no reason to stop the event. It wasn't something we could control. We moved it and we're going to go forward with it.”

Wright's mother, Lisa Culp, referred comment to her attorney, Mark Milsop.

Milsop said they have a “good idea” what happened, but the accident remains an “ongoing matter.” No court cases have been filed, he said.

Regarding this year's event, Milsop said, “I hope they've had the input of people who have expertise in safety and that they are now in a position that no one will ever be hit again.”

Owens Field is owned by the Apollo-Ridge School District. Superintendent Matt Curci said the district “is not considering requests for any fireworks-related events” there. The Salute to the Armed Forces group did not ask to use the stadium this year, Curci said.

“We thought it would be better to move it,” Mazzon said.

Apollo has given permission for the plaza to be used for the event, Borough Manager Cindee McDermott said. She said no fireworks will be launched in the borough.

The event has been held at the plaza before, when Owens Field was being rebuilt, Mazzon said.

Mazzon said the event will follow the same program as prior years, serving as a salute to past, present and fallen military members, capped by fireworks.

Holding the event without fireworks was not considered, Mazzon said.

“It's what Apollo's known for on the Fourth of July,” he said. “It's a tradition and we want to keep it going.”

Mazzon said they've been asked to keep the event going at least until 2016, when Apollo will celebrate its bicentennial, and they're going to try.

Fundraising for this year's show is coming up short, he said.

Mazzon said he hopes people will come out not just for the fireworks, but to show respect and support for the military and honor the families of those who have died in the service of their nation.

“These men and women put their lives on the line every day for us,” he said. “This is a small way to show our respect for them.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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