Lawsuit smoldering in Avon fireworks misfire | VailDaily.com

Lawsuit smoldering in Avon fireworks misfire

AVON — This year's Avon fireworks misfire injured nine people, and one of them is suing the fireworks company and probably the town.

Local attorney Rohn Robbins notified Western Enterprises that his client would be suing the company for injuries suffered when shells exploded into the crowd.

"I think it's pretty clear that something went wrong, and it's their equipment and their show that went wrong," Robbins said.

Robbins declined to name his client, and no public documents have yet been filed with the courts.

Western Enterprises CEO Jim Burnett said in an email that media calls from the Vail Daily were the first he'd heard of any litigation. He said their insurance broker has been very active in contacting all individuals injured.

"Of course there is still an ongoing investigation, and we are working with the authorities throughout this entire process and will continue to do so," Burnett said.

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Eric Heil, Avon's town attorney, said he could not comment at this time.

"Something should change. This was foreseeable," Robbins said.

What happened

Avon's annual fireworks show is the largest in Colorado and has been running 29 years. During the show, roughly 10,000 shells are fired.

About 17 minutes into this year's 23-minute show, a shell misfired in its tube instead of firing correctly into the sky. That caused a rack of 5-inch shells to tip in two directions, and three shells fired into the crowd.

After the show, Avon officials said publicly that nine people suffered minor burns.

Avon Town Manager Virginia Egger said all nine people who "experienced minor abrasion burns were treated by emergency medical personnel at the show and released." Robbins said there's nothing minor about his client's injuries.

"The town reported that there were only minor injuries. However, my client was in a nylon chair and he was fairly severely burned," Robbins said.

"This was not as benign as stated," Robbins said.

When the shell fragments hit the man, he was in a nylon chair near the edge of Nottingham Lake, Robbins said.

"The chair has four or five burned spots, and he was sitting it while it was burning," Robbins said. "He was partially stripped because he was on fire."

Robbins said the man has been receiving medical treatment.

As a part of his job, the man travels extensively, which has had to be curtailed, Robbins said.

"He can't sleep and can't wear normal clothes. He has to wear sweatpants," Robbins said.

Right after the July 3 incident, Western Enterprises said it was "a rare product malfunction occurred, causing several adjacent fireworks to misfire."

"Western Enterprises Inc. deeply regrets that people were injured during the Avon fireworks display," Gary Caimano said in an email. "Public safety has always been our No. 1 priority."

Robbins and his client sent a courtesy letter to Western Enterprises, advising them to put their insurance company on notice. Avon received a notice of intent to sue, a courtesy in civil courts and a requirement under state law.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.