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Fireworks Company Blames Computer Glitch For Fourth Of July Bayfront Bust

Big Bay Bust

A Youtube video shows how fireworks on San Diego Bay all seemed to go off at once, to the surprise and disappointment of spectators.

Thousands of spectators who lined San Diego Bay for July Fourth fireworks saw one big burst then dark skies. Some answers emerged one day later.

— It all went off at once, just minutes before the actual show was due to start. Several barges full of fireworks exploded, lighting up the sky in downtown San Diego and setting off car alarms downtown.

Today the company hired to do the bayfront fireworks display blamed a computer programming error for the mishap.

The fireworks show, called the Big Bay Boom, has been unofficially renamed the Big Bay Bust. The fiery show was over in seconds, huge crowds were crestfallen and the contractor, Garden State Fireworks, had a lot of explaining to do.

Garden State co-owner August Santore spoke to KPBS media partner Channel 10 News. He said the mishap wasn't due to human error or firework technology, but to a corrupt computer file.

"Anyone who's ever had any kind of computer situation or otherwise, it's not perfect,” said Santore. “We’ve never had anything like this before and, God willing, we’ll never have anything like this again.”

But with last night’s debacle, the producer of the fireworks show is faced with making things right with angry spectators and financial sponsors. Sponsors have put $350,000 into buying the fireworks show, renting barges, promotion and permitting. The Port of San Diego paid $145,000.

Sandy Purdon is executive producer of the Big Bay Boom.

“We'll try and help make it right but we're not going to totally make it right,” said Purdon. “You can't replace the disappointment everybody has when they bring their family down on the Fourth of July to the waterfront to see something.”

Santore has offered to put on another show for free, either next year on the Fourth of July or sometime earlier. But Purdon said Garden State Fireworks can't begin to cover all the costs of a make-good fireworks display.

He said the shows producers have compensated Garden State but have not given them their “final check.” Purdon would not say how the show’s finances will ultimately be resolved.

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