By Ralph Echtinaw
All systems are go for the St. Louis High School homecoming bonfire on Thursday, Oct. 7, after the school personnel satisfied safety criteria put forth by Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr.
Ramereiz was more cautious than usual this year on account of an accident at the Breckenridge fireworks last July where a man lost half a leg.
A Wolverine Fireworks employee accidentally knocked over a mortar after lighting the fuse. The shell fired and severed his leg just below the knee.
“There’s going to be most likely repercussions coming to the village of Breckenridge, the Breckenridge Fire Department and a few other entities for failure to follow safety protocols or rules as set forth for having those type of events,” Ramereiz told city council Sept. 21. “And the liability for who’s giving approval is a huge thing.”
“I don’t want to say it’s complacency,” Ramereiz continued, “but you rely on these companies to do what they’re supposed to be doing and knowing what the rules are because that’s their business. They should know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. And in this case this was something that was not allowed and wasn’t supposed to be there, but it was.”
So Ramereiz and Fire Chief Bill Coty ensured that the school district takes precautions for the bonfire scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, in the shot put area at the east end of the football field.
They sent a list of questions to the school district on safety procedures “just to make sure we have our eyes dotted and tees crossed before either of us put our department’s names on it as approving it or the city approving it,” Ramereiz said. “Anything can happen no matter how much safety you put into anything. We’d like to take as much liability out of it as possible. I don’t want to see the city being run through the mud or the schools being run through the mud because we failed to plan.”
Fireworks accident investigation
The Breckenridge fireworks incident was investigated by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which concluded its investigation Tuesday.
Breckenridge Fire Chief Jeff Westall said “We did meet with MIOSHA and pretty much finalize the report. I don’t meet with my Fire Board until Oct. 20 to give them the final details about the report. I thinks it’s only right that I meet with them first. If you want to put your story back up, that’s fine, but I won’t say what happen until I meet with my board.”
The original version of this story was taken off the Sentinel web site after Breckenridge Fire Department Capt. Gerritt Bott said on Facebook that it was inaccurate where the fire department is concerned. But he wouldn’t elaborate.
Westall had much the same response. “This article you wrote about the fireworks mishaps is so incorrect with the Breckenridge Fire Department,” he wrote on Facebook Messenger. “This article to totally misleading!!!
Prompted further, Westall wrote “I can’t say much yet. We have our closing meeting with MIOSHA on Tuesday (Sept. 28). After that I will talk about the incident.”
Now we have to wait until Oct. 20 before he will talk about the incident.