Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, July 9 @ 3:11 p.m.

'It Was A War Zone'; Del Norte Residents Urge Supervisors To Stop Influx Of Illegal Fireworks Following Explosion At South Beach

Crescent City resident Rose Reppond told county supervisors on Tuesday that she may lose a finger after she was injured during Thursday's firework explosion at South Beach. | Screenshot


Firework Explosion at South Beach Injures 14; Toddler In Hospital With Life-Threatening Injuries


It was a beautiful Thursday evening at South Beach, Rose Reppond said.

The 62-year-old Crescent City resident had settled in with some friends. She watched a family and their little boy play in the sand. There was no breeze and no fog — the perfect day to hang out and get some video.

“Then the shit hit the fan and it was a war zone,” Reppond told Del Norte County supervisors on Tuesday. “It was a bad war zone. I had to go bury my head in the sand.”

Reppond is one of roughly 14 people who were injured in a fireworks explosion that resulted in what emergency officials called a multi-casualty incident. She said she was about 70 feet from where the ignition began and saw those responsible igniting more fireworks, one after the other, and then going to their car and getting more, even as people began fleeing.

Reppond said she was capturing the incident on video when an explosion hit her in the hands, knocking her phone to the ground. She buried herself in the sand to protect her head from shrapnel. A stranger took her by the arm and walked her off the beach where she found her friends.

“I was begging for an ice chest for my hands. I saw my fingers,” she told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “The girl I was with got hit with shrapnel. I got some in my head and I have some in my back and my arms. It just kept going on and on even after that.”

Reppond said the knuckle in her middle finger is smashed. Her index finger is “sliced to where we had to put stitches in it.” She said she’s waiting for an orthopedic surgeon from Medford to get in touch with her. On Tuesday, Reppond told supervisors that she’s facing partial amputations of her fingers.

“I was told by the doctor that if I don’t get in there within a week, I’ll lose a finger,” she told the Outpost, adding that she was determined to speak with county supervisors. “For as long as I’ve been here, I’ve never seen this. Every year it gets bigger.”

The little boy Reppond watched playing in the sand is currently at a Portland hospital in a medically induced coma. According to his aunt, SuZanna Church, who created a GoFundMe campaign, the little boy will need skin grafts for the burns he sustained.

Though he’s been somewhat silent on the case, Del Norte County Sheriff Garrett Scott said two of his deputies were the first emergency responders on the scene — they arrived within two-and-a-half minutes of the 911 call at about 10:25 p.m., he said. Scott said he also responded to the scene in order to collect evidence.

“I did establish a criminal investigation and I do have two investigators assigned to it,” he told the Outpost. “The Del Norte County District Attorney’s office is also working with my team on a criminal investigation.”

Crescent City is a popular place during the Fourth of July, but this year seemed especially bad, with illegal fireworks and large crowds trying to escape the inland heatwave, Scott said.

During the holiday, one deputy was assigned to work in Gasquet and another in the Smith River area. Three deputies floated between the Crescent City and Fort Dick areas, along with Scott himself, and three Yurok Tribal Police officers, who are cross-deputized with the DNSO, were working in Klamath.

Three California Highway Patrol officers also helped field other calls for service coming in when the firework explosion happened, Scott said. These calls included a few fights and a burglary-in-progress that occurred in Fort Dick, he said.

“All the roadways were extremely packed with vehicles and traffic because the main fireworks display that was done at the B Street Pier had just gotten over, so the crowds were leaving,” Scott said. “Luckily I had two deputies who already patrolling the harbor area and were really close.”

Multiple fire and medical agencies also responded, including Crescent City Fire and Rescue, the Crescent City Police Department, Del Norte Ambulance, Cal-Ore Life Flight and Fortuna Fire, which was covering the local CalFire station, according to Crescent City Fire Chief Kevin Carey. Authorities shut U.S. 101 down during the incident as well, according to Carey.

On Tuesday, Reppond and 14 other residents called on the Board of Supervisors to stop the influx of illegal fireworks into their community. They also urged them to figure out a way to increase sheriff’s patrols on the beach during the holiday, even if that means deputizing volunteers.

Some residents said community leaders should consider phasing out fireworks entirely. Marcia Morgan said loud fireworks go off in her Bertsch Tract neighborhood for weeks before the Fourth of July. They’re toxic to people and harmful to pets and wildlife, she said.

“I know talking about the possibility of having the public display only by people who are following the rules and are knowledgeable, I know that’s upsetting to people who make a living selling fireworks,” Morgan said. “I know sellers are only selling safe fireworks and illegal fireworks are being bought elsewhere by irresponsible idiots. We don’t have the manpower to police it in our small community. We’d like to see fireworks out of our neighborhood.”

Mario Westphal urged supervisors to come up with preemptive measures and accused officials of enabling the “out-of-control” behavior that led to Thursday’s mass casualty incident. He also lambasted what he called a lack of coordination between the city, county and other public service departments.

“We all knew there would be a large influx of visitors. That there would be alcohol consumption and illegal fireworks,” he said. “In addition to that, we had a weather forecast of triple digit temperatures — what could possibly go wrong?”

Scott agreed that Del Norte County would have to curtail the influx of illegal fireworks. It’s gotten out of hand, he said, and many people who “normally wouldn’t mind a little bit of that” are asking law enforcement to step up.

Scott said he’s reached out to California State Parks, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and CalFire for assistance. He said he also hopes to work with the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce, Redwood National and State Parks and other tourism-related organizations to conduct some kind of advertising asking people not to bring their fireworks to the coast.

“There is the ability to ask our partners with State Parks and National Parks and Fish & Game and so forth to help us out during those times, to put a few people, a few law enforcement [officers] on UTVs on the beaches and confiscate fireworks and write citations,” he said. “Obviously I don’t have the staff to deal with 20,000 people along our beaches, but I do have some partners and I do have the ability to do prevention work.”

At Tuesday’s Board meeting, District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey and her colleague Chris Howard, who represents District 3, said they fielded “countless calls” about the fireworks explosion on South Beach.

Starkey said that while she and her colleagues can’t engage with the public during the public comment period, she wanted to place the issue on a future agenda “to see what we can’t do to effect some significant changes if that is what this community wants.”

Reppond, who has lived in Del Norte County for 30 years, urged supervisors to do something.

“I’m going to lose my finger over this,” she said. “The sheriff’s department did a great job — somebody had to pick me up and bring me to the road. I buried my head in the sand like it was a war zone, so you guys have to do something.”


© 2024 Lost Coast Communications Contact: