A destructive fireworks explosion that was meant to be a controlled detonation in Los Angeles last month was caused by “human error” over a misunderstanding of their total weight, according to law enforcement
Michael Moore, the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, announced this at a press conference on their response after discovering someone illegally possessing fireworks for the upcoming 4 July holiday.
Mr Moore said that more than 32,000lbs of fireworks were uncovered on the property after receiving a call from a concerned neighbour. Detonating them at the scene was believed to be the best option as some of the fireworks were thought to be “leaking material”, which raised concerns about transporting them away.
The fireworks were loaded into a specially formatted vehicle to detonate them at the scene.
Mr Moore told reporters, “We believe a human error went into the miscalculation of the amount of material going into that vessel. It’s believed that the net explosive weight placed into the TCV exceeded its rated capacity.”
Experts at the scene believed that 16.5lbs of faulty fireworks were being detonated. However, officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives concluded that it was actually more than 42lbs, Mr Moore told reporters. The maximum the instrument can handle is 25lbs, he said, and it has been used 42 times before.
He also outlined that there had been special effort to evacuate properties on both sides of the street, residences and businesses. Due to the volume of explosives in the vehicle, this proved to be insufficient, as 17 people were still injured due to the detonation – six bystanders, 10 LAPD officers and an ATF agent. The blast also caused substantial property damage to 22 homes, 13 commercial outlets, and 37 vehicles.
Mr Moore offered an apology to everyone impacted by the explosion at the beginning of the press conference.
“I want to personally express my apologies to every resident, business operator and customer that was traumatically impacted by this incident,” he said.
LA County Councilman Curren Price Jr said that the LAPD failed to “protect and serve”.
“The actions taken by LAPD on June 30 fell short of law enforcement’s duty to protect and serve, and this act of negligence bears serious consequences not only for the victims, but for our community and the City as a whole,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
Mr Moore told reporters at the press conference that there will be a “top-down, bottom-up inspection of the LAPD bomb squad”.