Two firefighters and two Oktoberfest celebrants were hospitalized Saturday with injuries resulting from an electrical vault that exploded at the Old World Village’s seasonal celebration in Huntington Beach, authorities said.
Witnesses at the scene claimed there were actually three explosions. A witness using the Twitter handle kylen1972 posted video on the platform of what he claimed was the second explosion, in which flames can be seen shooting into the air.
Restaurant patron Dawn Orlow-Townsend told KCAL9 the lights flickered before the explosions and that she could feel the heat through the walls. She said that after the initial blast, “you could hear a pin drop.” She then described a scene of panic as patrons struggled to get out of the building.
“I pray those firefighters are okay,” she said. “It was crazy, it was so intense. There was a second explosion and then a third. We just started running, we left our cellphones. We were freaking out. People were running all over. It was crazy.”
She added, “It’s the world we live in right now. After the first explosion, you just don’t know what to think. We didn’t know what was going on. The first one, the second one — then there was mass pandemonium. By the third one, we just couldn’t get out of there fast enough.”
KCAL9 also talked to Adam Carlson. “Everyone was just happy and drinking beer and then the first explosion hit and people started backing away, and security tried to calm everyone,” he said. “I didn’t see anyone get hurt in my immediate response, but while evacuating, we saw — I personally saw two people that appeared hurt, one had burns. I just tried to comfort who I could.”
The Huntington Beach Fire Department received news of the explosion at 7561 Center Ave. at 8:10 p.m., a dispatcher said. The flames were out at 8:33 p.m., he said.
The injured firefighters were already at Old World Village, investigating reports of a possible electrical fire, Huntington Beach Fire Department Battalion Chief Jeff Lopez told reporters at the scene. They were met by the first explosion when they opened an electrical vault, he said. The second explosion happened within minutes.
The injured firefighters and civilians were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, Lopez said, but added that they were taking those injuries “very seriously.”
Firefighters and police worked to evacuate employees and patrons of Old World Village, he said. Broadcast reports indicate there were more than 100 visitors at the celebration.
A lengthy investigation was begun that will involve the fire department and Edison, Lopez said.