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Miami fireworks show cut short after bomb scare

Downtown Miami cut short its Fourth of July fireworks show Thursday night after a bomb scare prompted police to clear out a nearby road, briefly sending pedestrians fleeing before the situation calmed down. (Miami Herald)
Downtown Miami cut short its Fourth of July fireworks show Thursday night after a bomb scare prompted police to clear out a nearby road, briefly sending pedestrians fleeing before the situation calmed down. (Miami Herald)
Published Jul. 5, 2019

MIAMI — Downtown Miami cut short its Fourth of July fireworks show Thursday night after a bomb scare prompted police to clear out a nearby road, briefly sending pedestrians fleeing before the situation calmed down.

"It's a major disappointment for a lot of people," said Commissioner Joe Carollo, chairman of the Bayfront Park trust that puts on the annual show, one of the largest in Miami-Dade County.

He said a fireworks show scheduled to last 15 minutes ended after seven minutes after city police instructed the launches to stop.

Photo gallery: Fourth of July across Tampa Bay

Jose Solano, the park's executive director, said city police did ask him to halt the show after officers discovered a suspicious package nearby. But Solano said he wasn't able to have a conversation with the operator of the fireworks barge anchored off the park, so the order wasn't relayed. A subsequent call to a city fire marshal did shut down the show just before 9:10 p.m.

"It's disappointing," Solano said. "I understand. They've got to do their jobs."

The scare and surprisingly short fireworks display both played out on social media, with some users posting alarming videos of people fleeing Bayfront Park and others annoyed at the quick ending.

A Miami police spokesperson said she could not confirm information about the agency intervening with the fireworks show. Kenia Fallat said officers did clear out a service road behind the adjoining Bayside Marketplace where the package was found but did not order a widespread evacuation of the crowded park.

A Miami police spokesperson said she could not confirm information about the agency intervening with the fireworks show. Kenia Fallat said officers did clear out a service road behind the adjoining Bayside Marketplace where the package was found but did not order a widespread evacuation of the crowded park.

Miami police dispatched its bomb squad to the area after an abandoned suitcase was reported as suspicious. After 10 p.m., the squad exploded the suitcase and found no bomb. In a tweet, Miami police said the package was "deemed safe."

The false alarm left an entire barge of fireworks unignited in Biscayne Bay. That was going to be the grand finale of one of the best fireworks shows the city would have ever seen, according to its designer.

"Everything was gorgeous, beautiful," said Gary Avins, owner of Firepower Displays Unlimited, a South Miami-Dade company that has been doing the Bayfront show for about 20 years. "I had put in some new effects I had designed this past year."

Avins said one of his crew members took Solano's call, but he brushed off his employee. "I'm in the middle of shooting a show," Avins recalled. "I said, 'Tell him I'll call him back."

Though he's been launching fireworks on the Miami waterfront for two decades, Avins has been in fireworks business for 40 years. Until Thursday night, he said he had never gotten a call from authorities to shut down a show. It was only when the number of a Miami fire marshal assigned to the show appeared on Avins' cellphone that the fireworks impresario realized something was wrong. He told his crew to stop igniting the rockets, ending the display about halfway through.

"This was one of the best shows ever," he said wistfully.

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