July 5, 2013

Several injured in fireworks accident at Airborne


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Spectators at Airborne Speedway suffered minor injuries in a fireworks accident late Wednesday.

State Police based in Plattsburgh said crowds at the popular racetrack in South Plattsburgh were watching the display at about 10 p.m. when remnants of a firework hit people in the stands.

Some people were treated in the stands by emergency personnel, and six people went to CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh, State Police said. All were treated and released.


“There was an incident at Airborne Speedway Wednesday night involving a malfunctioning multiple-stage firework rocket that was only partially deflected by racetrack fencing and reached spectators,” Airborne managing partner and promoter Mike Perrotte said by email early Thursday.

“Medical personnel were quickly on the scene to attend to fans as needed, and anyone brought to the hospital for further evaluation was released.”

Airborne fireworks are blasted off by a team led by Dr. Joe Clauss, a Plattsburgh chiropractor who has been certified for more than 20 years in pyrotechnics.

“Dr. Joe Clauss and his team of certified fireworks professionals have always sought to put safety first,” Perrotte said. “We’ll review the event in an effort to understand why the misfire happened and to prevent any recurrence.”


Clauss told the Press-Republican that the rocket that malfunctioned was an expensive specialty shell that is supposed to blast about 300 feet into the sky and launch four smaller fireworks inside that go higher and then pop.

“It blew up very low,” he said, possibly at 20 to 30 feet.

The four smaller rockets went into the crowd, their impact mitigated to some degree by the track fencing.

The people who were hurt suffered minor burns, according to authorities.

“But it’s not minor if you are the one who is hurt and frightened,” Clauss said. “I feel very, very bad about this.”

He said he notified the supplier first thing Thursday about the defective shell.


Airborne was billing Wednesday night as the Pepsi Racing and Fireworks Extravaganza, with racing starting at 7, followed by fireworks and a performance by the Bootleg Band.

“The only reason I do this is because I like to help people,” Clauss said. “I like to make them happy. We always put safety above everything.”

State Police are continuing their investigation.

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