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Explosion at Arizona fireworks plant destroys building

February 18, 2005

Lake Havasu City, Ariz. -- An explosion in a small building at the Havasu Pyrotechnics facility on Victoria Farms Road destroyed the building and injured one person.

John "Bill" William Darson of Walnut Creek was inside the structure weighing a type of finely ground black powder explosive when the material flashed in his face. He quickly turned his head away from the flash and ran outside when a five-gallon plastic bucket filled with the material blew up behind him, consuming the building.

"It was an unfortunate accident," Darson said. "I was lucky to get out of the building."

Fire officials at the scene said Darson suffered first- and second- degree burns on his arm. The hair on the back and front of his head was also singed.

Lake City Fire Department Investigator, Tom Hutter, said he believed that by using a metal scoop to transfer black powder from the plastic bucket and pour it into a metal bucket that was sitting on the scale, Darson created a static charge that ignited the powder.

"That was all it took," Hutter said. "He's very lucky to have been outside the building when it happened."

Brett Valory, who was one of three other people at the scene, was inside another structure about 100 feet away when he saw a 25-foot fireball erupt from Darson's building. He said he was relieved when he saw his friend walking away mostly unscathed.

"I can't believe he got out when he did," Valory said.

Desert Hills Fire Department was first on the scene not long after the call was made at 2:27 p.m.

Officials opted to let the fire burn itself out for safety reasons, as it posed no risk to nearby structures. The building was reduced to a pile of ash and rubble that burned for well over an hour.

No other people were injured in the accident.




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