Allegan mom recalls 'explosion of light and sparks' during fireworks show misfire

Wolverine Fireworks tells FOX 17 that they’re 'deeply concerned' about the incident and have launched an internal investigation.
July 3 Jubilee Fireworks
Fireworks - Letter from City of Allegan.jpg
Posted at 11:14 AM, Jul 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-05 11:14:10-04

ALLEGAN, Mich. — Melissa Knuckles and her family have been attending the July 3 Jubilee fireworks show in downtown Allegan since 2013. She said it’s fun and safe, and there’s nothing to worry about.

Allegan mom recalls 'explosion of light and sparks' during fireworks show misfire

So, Monday afternoon, around 3 p.m., they put up chairs at Mahon Park to secure their spot for the show. They left for a few hours and then returned that night.

“Fireworks started about 10:15 p.m., and then somewhere between 10:30 p.m. and 10:34 p.m. they are launching some pyrotechnics from the pontoons, which they do every year. But immediately, we noticed this looks a lot bigger than before and a lot closer. It kind of made you feel like ‘Uhh,’” Knuckles said with a puzzled look on her face during Tuesday’s interview with FOX 17.

Then she said some fireworks were shot off that didn’t go very high but extended about 50 feet into the crowd and sparks hit the ground.

That’s when an explosion occurred, she said.

“There was an explosion of light and sparks and people screaming,” Knuckles recalled. “My husband was in a chair here. And he grabbed my daughter and threw her to the ground and went over top of her.”

Her eight-year-old son was nowhere in sight. When her husband said to grab him, she couldn’t find him.

“I was very, very panicked,” Knuckles said. “I screamed his name probably three times but he’s a really good kid and he came right back.”

READ MORE: Misfire at Allegan fireworks show leaves spectators in panic

Her son said he ran towards the iron bridge on Second Street for safety but both her kids were “petrified.”

Knuckles said first responders and police arrived in two minutes.

“As soon as it all settled people immediately started asking ‘Are you ok? Are you ok? Are you ok? Are you ok?,'” she said. “And people that were burned, people started getting ice out of their coolers, putting ice on burns.”

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Melissa Knuckles and her children at Mahan Park, the exact location where they sat on Monday night for the fireworks show.

People in her area started to pack up and leave the event, she said. She and her family hustled toward the iron bridge.

“As we were walking across the bridge, there were fireworks going off on the other pontoons closer to those people and our minds and our hearts are thinking ‘Why are you still shooting fireworks off from pontoons?’" Knuckles shouted. “People were just hurt.”

Tuesday morning, the city of Allegan released a statement which said that they were contracted with Wolverine Fireworks Display, a company they’ve used for years.

The statement also read, in part:

“The City of Allegan contracts with Wolverine Fireworks Display and they utilize pontoon boats in the Kalamazoo River for the main show and finale that launch south of M89, and the proximate show that launches approximately 90 feet from the pedestrian boardwalk. Proximate fireworks are commonly used in a wide variety of applications including theme park displays, concerts, and local festivals and fall under the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1126 Standards.

“During the firework display, a firework cake from the proximate show unintentionally landed in a crowd located to the East of one of the pontoon boats. This resulted in a handful of minor injuries, all but one of which was treated at the site of the incident. One individual was transported to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for further evaluation.

“Our thoughts are with all of those who were affected by this unintentional incident.”

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The iron bridge, properly called the Second Street Bridge, near downtown Allegan

FOX 17 reached out to Wolverine who said that they were “deeply concerned” about the incident. They’ve launched an internal investigation, in which they’re speaking with staff and law enforcement about what happened.

Knuckles said that by the time they reached the other end of the iron bridge, the fireworks show was over. However, she believed the city should’ve added more than “thoughts” in their letter.

“The fact that no apology was made is very hurtful. Because I know there were kids out here that have autism,” Knuckles said. “It was a big deal for parents to get certain kids to even come, and they think they can come because it’s a safe event. So, to not even make an apology for people who were burned and children that were traumatized is very hurtful.”

Read the full statement from the city of Allegan below:

Fireworks - Letter from City of Allegan.jpg