PLYMOUTH – “I’m amazed, and extremely thankful that no one was injured,” Ken Tavares, chairman of the Board of Selectmen and principal of the July 4 Committee, told the Old Colony Tuesday after a fireworks shell misfired, igniting fires on two barges and cutting short Plymouth’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display.
Tavares has a unique perspective on the fireworks – because of his long-time leadership of the fundraising effort that makes the annual display possible, and because he always has a great seat for the show.
Tavares lives on Winter Street, just outside of the downtown area, a road that ends on the harbor and affords friends and family members a direct view of the fireworks barges in the harbor.
That’s why when things went wrong Monday night, Tavares said, he knew right away something was amiss.
“You could see that there had been an explosion of some sort right on the water line,” Tavares said, “It was impressive to see, but not normal. In a moment everything around us went dead quiet as people realized that something had gone wrong.
“I called the town manager, who I knew was down on the waterfront, but before I could get through I could see the emergency responders heading out and a fire on the barge.”
At first the evening’s activities went off exactly as planned. The Plymouth Philharmonic played a pre-fireworks program including the booming 1812 Overture and then, at about 9:15 p.m., the fireworks began.
For those with a less direct vantage point than Tavares, the show was at first impressive and then mysterious.
Just a little more than 10 minutes into the program everything ended. It took longer than that for people to realize it was not just a long pause.
Others, though, could see and hear the problem.
“We were up on my family’s roof deck and witnessed the explosion,” Robert Sullivan said. Robert and Gerry Sullivan, from Braintree, were visiting Lauren Foley’s family on Winslow Street. “We could feel the percussion off our chests. It was very loud, and it was obvious something went wrong.”
At first the emergency responders believed only one of the two fireworks barges was involved, and their plan was to purposefully set off the second barge’s fireworks later in the evening. But before they could do that a fire started on the second barge.
“The second barge caught fire as we were extinguishing the first,” Plymouth Fire Chief Ed Bradley said Monday night.
Plymouth emergency responders reached the scene quickly and got the fireworks company’s crews to safety. And, Bradley said, there were no injuries.