As 4 spectators hit by fireworks continue to recover, officials say safety protocols were followed

CEDAR CITY — Authorities are still investigating what went wrong when a stray firework shot off during the opening ceremonies of the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games last Friday night went into a nearby crowd and exploded, injuring four spectators.

Read more: Errant firework injures 4 spectators

“Safety of the athletes and spectators is our highest concern, and we are taking this situation very seriously,” Mindy Benson, Southern Utah University’s vice president of alumni and community relations, said in a news release. “We care deeply about those who were hurt and have been in contact with them over the weekend.”

Although the names of the injured haven’t been released by officials, Tim Strand and his wife, Charise, of Cedar City have publicly said they were among those who were injured. Tim Strand was interviewed by KSL TV on Saturday, the day after the incident, while Charise Strand subsequently spoke with Cedar City News, as well as making a public post on Facebook expressing gratitude toward the medical staff that treated them and to community members for their support.

“Thank you to all who have gone out of their way to help us and reminding us what a great community and neighborhood we live in,” Charise Strand wrote in her post. “We are humbled by everyone’s love and support and cannot thank you all enough. We have much to be thankful for and are counting our blessings every minute since the incident. Thank you for the prayers! They are being felt as we recover.”

Another member of the Strand family, Tim’s brother Scott, was also injured, with both men suffering ruptured eardrums, along with burns and other injuries. The fourth person hurt was an adult female who reportedly sustained burns on her legs.

The injured individuals were reportedly treated at the scene by medical personnel and later received additional care at Cedar City Hospital, where they were treated and released.

“It’s a very slow recovery, but we are getting there,” Charise Strand told Cedar City News Wednesday morning. “I took the initial hit to my abdomen, and it is very swollen with pooled blood and very sore. I have minimal burns to my neck and head.”

She added she is especially grateful that no young children were hurt in the incident.

“We had children sitting with our group and also many children around us,” she said. “It is truly a miracle they were not injured.”

Amateur videos taken by bystanders, including one published by Cedar City News on Saturday, show a firework shell exploding at or near ground level amid a group of people gathered in a grassy area just outside the SUU Coliseum, the university’s football stadium. The incident reportedly happened around 10:30 p.m., just as the fireworks show was ending.

Charise Strand also shot a video with her own cellphone, which can be seen in its entirety on Youtube by clicking here. Another of her family members shot a video that can be seen here.

SUU officials said in the news release that pyrotechnicians at Fireworks West Internationale, along with organizers of Utah Summer Games, had followed precautions and procedures during the event.

“Spectators were seated at a distance from the launch area that was in compliance with standards for the size of fireworks being used at the event,” the release stated. “Warnings about the fireworks were posted and stated over the announcement system several times throughout the evening.”

Benson said that the university has worked with the Logan-based Fireworks West Internationale for several years.

“They are a professional, experienced company,” she said. “We are working and committed to reviewing protocols to ensure that future events are safe and enjoyable.”

As the Strands continue to recover, Charise Strand said she and her family feel blessed to have escaped more serious injury or worse, saying that it was a “very dangerous firework that could have – and should have – done a lot more damage than it did.”

“We have seen many miracles with this,” she said. “There are countless what-ifs, but the more we learn, the more grateful we are. … We are very blessed it happened how it did.”

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