Fireworks company ready to put on a show

August Santore Jr. of Garden State Fireworks wires the
August Santore Jr. of Garden State Fireworks wires the "electric matches" to the fuse of a fireworks shell as crews load the launch tubes on barges docked off East Street in New London on Friday. Tonight's 21-minute OpSail fireworks show will feature more than 4,000 large shells and more than 15,000 explosive effects.

New London - The company responsible for setting off 20 minutes worth of fireworks in just 15 seconds in San Diego is also in charge of Saturday's show in New London. But the owner of Garden State Fireworks promises the problem won't repeat itself here.

"It was terrible,'' August Santore, co-owner of the New Jersey company, said of the July 4 San Diego Bay show. "It was one of the most horrible things. In one respect, we stole their Fourth of July. But it was a relief no one was injured. And there was no damage.''

Videos of the 15-second show, which most people on the ground at first did not realize was a mistake, went viral on the Internet. One home videographer said it looked like the beginning and finale of the show went off at the same time. He wasn't wrong.

During a telephone interview Friday from the family-owned fireworks factory in Millington, N.J., Santore said there was a software problem in San Diego - all circuits opened at the same time and the fireworks went off all at once from four barges. He said the company is still looking into what went wrong.

"It shouldn't have happened," he said. "I can't stop it, I can't change it, I take full responsibility."

The company triple-checks everything, said Santore, who has offered to give San Diego a free show for the next Fourth of July.

In tonight's show in New London, sponsored by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, 10,000 to 15,000 fireworks will be ignited from two barges on the Thames River. The show, which will be choreographed to music, begins at about 9 p.m.

Santore said precautions are being taken and he expects OpSail/Sailfest visitors to view a show unlike any they've seen in the past. "We're very confident, very sure of ourselves,'' he said. "Everything possible has been done to make sure what happened in San Diego doesn't happen in New London.''

Santore's son, August Santore Jr., who was in New London Friday getting the barges ready, said the day after the San Diego show was tough. His father was on the phone from 6:30 in the morning to 8:30 at night answering media calls, he said.

"We did everything like we did every other time,'' the younger Santore said. "It wasn't a great night for us, but there wasn't anything we could do.

"In the end, the show was safe, the setup was secure, nobody was hurt, the fireworks went where they were supposed to, just not when they were supposed to."

He also was philosophical about the San Diego show.

"The unexpected is the thing of our lives,'' he said. "How do you expect the unexpected? We have $400,000 to $500,000 worth of equipment that we've used for eight or nine years. We've never had any issues with it.

"It's like I tell my boys: We're almost perfect," he said.

Day photographer Sean D. Elliot contributed to this report.


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