Crystal Lake fireworks show shut down early after malfunction caused explosion on platform

Young adults watch the fireworks show from a pier Sunday, July 2, 2023, at Crystal Lake’s Main Beach during Crystal Lake Annual Independence Day Celebration.

The Crystal Lake fireworks show Sunday evening ended a few minutes into the program after a malfunction occurred on the loading platform.

About seven minutes into Sunday’s show, a “significant event” happened on the platform and a shell detonated in the launch tube, which affected “the show’s ability to continue as planned,” officials said in a joint city of Crystal Lake and Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Department news release.

The city later said in a Facebook post that the explosion on the platform “may have caused several undetonated mortars to fall into the lake.”

“Fire Rescue Department staff will be actively searching the lake this week,” the post said, but asked anyone who might come across a shell on the beach to call 911.

A person asked on the Facebook comment thread if the beach should have been shut down given the potential mortars in the water. The Crystal Lake Park District responded that it consulted with the fire department and “were told the entire lake had been searched twice and no mortars were found.” The district added that camp and aquatic staffs were also advised to call 911 if any mortars were located.

No one was injured in the mishap Sunday night, according to the release.

Officials said the show was immediately shut down but, following the incident, pyro technicians from American Fireworks Company of Hudson, Ohio, the company behind the show, intermittently launched “several fireworks to render the platform safe for docking on shore,” after the show shut down, according to the release. Those launches weren’t part of the choreographed show, according to the release.

The release didn’t elaborate on what went wrong that caused the shell to detonate on the launch platform.

“The city of Crystal Lake would like to apologize to those in attendance as this show did not meet the expectations set forth by the City and previous 4th of July celebrations,” according to the release. The city also thanked attendees for coming out “despite some early weather and technical challenges.”

The fireworks are set off remotely from a platform on a barge on Crystal Lake.

Rain hit the Crystal Lake area on and off Sunday, with heavy rains arriving in the area around the time the parade stepped off at 1 p.m., but officials did not say if weather had an impact on the show.

The city paid $30,000 of the $60,000 cost of the firework show put on by American Fireworks Company. Two anonymous people donated $15,000 each to expand the firework display. These donations have been given since 2017, according to city documents.

The firework display was meant to be similar to last year’s, with planning calling for a 25- to 30-minute show with 1,500 fireworks set to go off during the grande finale, according to city documents. The firework company included Illinois licensed pyrotechnicians to set up, fire, take down and conduct a safety inspections. The fireworks are choreographed and fired electronically, according to city documents.

The show unofficially closed out the Lakeside Festival, which ran Thursday through Sunday, but fireworks are handled by the city and not the Lakeside Legacy Foundation or the Dole Mansion.

A representative of American Fireworks Company did not return a call seeking comment.

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