It was supposed to be a celebratory start to the New Year, but an offshore explosion forced thousands to evacuate from Terrigal Beach on New South Wales’ Central Coast. Crowds gathered to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, but a few minutes into the 9pm show, cheers of excitement turned into fear as the display barge caught fire. It is now believed that one of the fireworks exploded inside its canister, rather than in the air. This triggered a domino effect, igniting other fireworks and setting the barge itself alight, before causing the vessel to sink.
Fortunately, the two pyrotechnicians aboard we able to dive from the fire and swam to safety. According to a NSW Ambulance Service spokeswoman, the technicians were treated for minor injuries including burns and exposure, which was sustained in the water. The pair were shaken but unharmed, and one returned to work the following day.
Local businessman David Lambert led a crowd-funding campaign that raised roughly $40,000, the figure required to bring New Year’s Eve fireworks to Terrigal for the first time in eighteen years.
An array of emergency crews responded to the incident including Fire Rescue NSW, Rural Fire Service, Marine Rescue, Police and Ambulance. However, it has been stressed that the public was not in danger. Ka-Boom Fireworks, the company responsible for the display, has since released a statement in which it thanked emergency services for their assistance.
An incident like this, with the potential to generate countless claims, sparks considerable interest in public liability insurers. Thankfully for Mr. Lambert, he was reportedly able to gain public liability insurance, as well as relevant approvals from the emergency services and the Central Coast Council. The barge that sank has since been retrieved, and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority continues to monitor spillages of hazardous material from the wreckage.
Despite the incident, Mr. Lambert plans to put on another spectacular display in 2018.
Words by Isabelle Laker