Two arrested, investigation continues after illegal fireworks cause injury at show

WEST ORANGE — An investigation is underway into who set off unauthorized fireworks at the township’s annual July 4 celebration creating fear, confusion and injuring one person.

Thousands of people attended the annual event at West Orange High School that included a food truck festival, large bouncy house inflatables for children and a traditional firework display, a long-standing tradition in the township, according to Mayor Susan McCartney.

In preparation for the day’s events, township officials and administrative staff, in concert with the planning performed by the Office of Emergency Management, coordinated with various departments, including police, fire, public works, health and recreation, to ensure a successful and safe day of enjoyment, McCartney said in a statement.

“The day ended, as usual, with a magnificent fireworks display at the West Orange High School complex with thousands of excited spectators looking on,” McCartney said.

During the aerial performance and afterwards, a number of spectators, located outside the designated safe viewing areas, set-off some unauthorized pyrotechnics amongst a crowd, causing confusion, fear and a few minor injuries, McCartney said.

West Orange Police were prepared and controlled the situation with speed and efficiency; arresting two individuals, while one victim was transported to RWJ Barnabas for burn treatment.

“The Township’s safety plan protected the vast majority of the day’s participants, but unfortunately, the actions of a few put a blanket on the celebration,” McCartney said.

“With safety of all involved at township-sponsored events being at the top of our priorities, the WOPD continues their investigation, including a review of available video surveillance.”

Anyone with information related to the incidents should contact the West Orange Police Department at (973) 325 4000.

The fireworks were not given an official go ahead this year until June 30 after some town and school district officials had expressed concerns about the venue. Last year, a fight broke out among teenagers from towns other than West Orange.

The township had issued a statement in advance of this year’s event telling people what to expect.

Among the preparations were closing the Degnan Park Complex at 11 a.m. and the West Orange High School Athletic Fields at 1 p.m. The soccer and baseball field entrance was later opened at 6:30 p.m. for the fireworks event.

“The field lights will be illuminated from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., but they will be turned off during the fireworks show. At the show’s conclusion, the lights will turn back on immediately to assist you in leaving the field. For increased visibility, portable light towers will be positioned at various locations throughout the complex,” the statement said.