2007 Port Richey fireworks tent explosion sends Tampa man to prison

Jerry St. Pierre sifts through charred remains at the Galaxy Fireworks tent in Port Richey. Several people were in the tent when the firework was lit, setting off a massive chain reaction.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times (2007)

Jerry St. Pierre sifts through charred remains at the Galaxy Fireworks tent in Port Richey. Several people were in the tent when the firework was lit, setting off a massive chain reaction.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Remember a year and a half back on July 4 when that fireworks tent exploded in Port Richey?

The guy responsible for that pleaded no contest to first-degree arson Friday morning.

Tony Glenn Rogers, 41, a laborer from Tampa, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. He could have gotten 30 years had he gone to trial and lost.

He also was ordered to pay back almost $40,000 to Galaxy Fireworks and its insurance company.

Late on July 4, 2007, Rogers lit a $130 mortar-style firework called a High and Mighty, according to authorities, causing a fiery, neon-bright, screaming-loud chain reaction inside the big blue and white tent set up on U.S. 19 just south of State Road 52.

It started with a pink ball of flame and ended with an unexpected, unscheduled, unwanted fireworks show in which some $70,000 of product got shot into the black Pasco County sky.

Whistling Moons.

White Glittering Willows.

Saturn Missile Batteries.

"The place exploded," witness Ian Paul said in a deposition earlier this year.

He called it "the most terrifying experience of my life."

Customer Andrea Berkman, 41 at the time, and her son, Griffin, then 5, ran for their lives. She sprained an ankle and scraped her leg. Her son got burned on his ear and had his hair singed.

Berkman filed a lawsuit against Rogers and Galaxy Fireworks in July, alleging "injury," "inconvenience" and "mental anguish." The case is pending.

The tent explosion was big news when it happened.

The Associated Press wrote about it.

There was a story on msnbc.com.

Someone shot video and then put the clip up on YouTube. It's been watched almost 22,000 times.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

2007 Port Richey fireworks tent explosion sends Tampa man to prison 12/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:24pm]

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