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Published: Sunday, 7/5/2009

3 dead after NC fireworks go off, 1 in Pa. blast

ASSOCIATED PRESS

OCRACOKE, N.C. A third worker who had been preparing for an Independence Day celebration died from injuries suffered when a truckload of fireworks exploded on a dock at a remote North Carolina island, authorities said.

In eastern Pennsylvania, an employee of a fireworks company staging a July Fourth celebration was killed by a separate explosion and, elsewhere, about 25 people were injured when a pedestrian bridge collapsed at festivities in northwest Indiana, authorities said.

The North Carolina worker died late Saturday at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, said Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell. Two other workers were injured in the blast that shook homes and businesses across the southern end of Ocracoke Island, but their conditions have not been released.

The workers were unloading fireworks from the truck when it blew up, catching the attention of residents and tourists across the village. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on scene Sunday investigating.

Dock master Robert Raborn noticed the workers unloading the truck Saturday from the Anchorage Marina about 200 yards away and said the explosion as one of the loudest things he has ever heard.

It was like 40 minutes worth of fireworks going off in four seconds, Raborn said.

Authorities have not released the names of the workers, four men and one woman.

The crew worked for Melrose South Pyrotechnics near Rock Hill, S.C. The company said in a statement it had sent an official to work with investigators.

In Pennsylvania, state police fire marshals are investigating the death of a worker killed Saturday evening at the start of the grand finale of fireworks at Quakertown s Memorial Park. Police Chief Scott McElree said some kind of explosion occurred and authorities immediately halted the show and evacuated part of the park.

The man was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly after the blast. His name, age and hometown have not been released.

In Merrillville, Ind., the collapse of a wooden pedestrian bridge sent at least 50 people into water and injured about 25 Saturday night, police said. No one was reported missing and none of the injuries was life-threatening, authorities said.

The bridge collapse occurred at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville, about 45 miles southeast of Chicago, around 10 p.m. as spectators were leaving a fireworks display.

Ross Township firefighter Perry Herzog told The Times newspaper of Munster that emergency workers had to rescue quite a few people from the water.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene, estimating that the roughly 90-foot-long bridge was full of people before it fell. Police estimated the crowd at about 10,000 people and said a preliminary investigation showed a structural failure of the footbridge.

People were grasping and hanging onto the bridge itself, Robert Walker, of Merrillville, told The Times.



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