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Cause for the Edmond LibertyFest fireworks explosion not determined

Edmond Police Technical Investigator Melissa Taft searches for evidence at the scene of a fireworks display explosion on July 5, which caused injury to one person and damage to a building at the Edmond LibertyFest. Authorities said Thursday they were unable to pinpoint a cause for the explosion. [Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman Archives]

Edmond Police Technical Investigator Melissa Taft searches for evidence at the scene of a fireworks display explosion on July 5, which caused injury to one person and damage to a building at the Edmond LibertyFest. Authorities said Thursday they were unable to pinpoint a cause for the explosion. [Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman Archives]

EDMOND — The police investigation into the LibertyFest fireworks explosion did not determine a cause for the mishap because fireworks company workers “contaminated and tampered with the scene” before the official investigation, a detective said.

A statement from Edmond Police Department detective Sgt. Marion Cain released Thursday indicates that state Fire Marshal Robert Doke and investigator Sam Schafnitt agreed with the police determination about the July 4 explosion that left one person injured and broke windows on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.

“They agreed with our assessment and reconstruction of the scene,” Cain said. “They did ... show some concern that the fireworks company employees contaminated and tampered with the scene before an official investigation could be conducted, thusly preventing anyone from determining the real and true cause of this mishap.”

Levi Clark, president of ARC Pyrotechnics Inc. in Oklahoma City, said Thursday he could not comment because he had not seen the police report or findings from his company's internal investigation.

“I have been asking for the police report,” Clark said. “Our internal investigation will be much more in depth. I expect to get it (Friday).”

The show was stopped about 17 minutes after it started because a shell exploded while it was still in the mortar, ARC Pyrotechnics said three days after the mishap in a statement on Facebook.

“After checking the damage at the site, our safety officer decided it to be in the best interest of our crew and the public to end the show,” company officials said. “After a brief meeting with LibertyFest and UCO officials we decided to call in the Edmond police and bomb squad to secure the site and perform a full investigation.”

Jenny Wagnon, Edmond police spokeswoman, said police could not determine if the shell exploded in the mortar.

“Unfortunately, we can't say that,” Wagnon said.

Police officials don't think there was any criminal intent in moving the evidence, she said.

“The bomb squad's ultimate goal would be not to remove anything until there is an investigation,” Wagnon said.

One spectator who was in the parking lot south of Main Street, about 500 feet south and between 250 to 300 feet west of the blast area, was injured, police reported.

Officials said seven windows were broken on the south side of UCO's Liberal Arts Building, which was about 160 feet from the blast area.

Marcus Humphrey, of ARC Pyrotechnics Inc., told police at the scene he was the lead shooter for the display.

Humphrey told police there were about 250 live rounds remaining after the explosion, according to the police report released Thursday.

The live fireworks were taken the next day to the police firing range for disposal.

Fireworks explosion at Edmond's LibertyFest injures two, damages building (Published July 5, 2016)

Diana Baldwin

Diana Baldwin has been an Oklahoma journalist since 1976. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing and covered the downfall of Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist misidentifying evidence. She wrote the original stories about the... Read more ›

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