Technical Problem Caused 2012 Show to Execute in 15 Seconds

(From a report in UTSANDIEGO.COM by Jonathan Horn)

A doubling of code commands in the Big Bay Boom fireworks computer system caused all of the show’s 7,000 fireworks to launch within 30 seconds.

That’s according to a highly technical report  released Wednesday by Garden State Fireworks, the company that produced the show.

The “Big Bay Blunder,” as it’s become known, has gained international attention, with footage of the flop broadcast repeatedly on TV and online. The fireworks were shot from four barges on San Diego’s bayfront and a portion of the Imperial Beach pier. What was supposed to be a 16-minute show in front of 500,000 people instead lasted about 30 seconds.

Big Bay Boom Fireworks 2012

Spectators watch as a malfunction causes the entire Big Bay Boom fireworks show. Photo by James Gregg to go off all at once

 

Garden State Fireworks of Millington, N.J., in business since 1890, said in the explanation that no one was hurt in the incident.

The company’s statement included an explanation of how fireworks shows are produced through code, with a primary launch file and a secondary back-up. The two files are merged to create a new launch file, and sent to each of the five fireworks locations. Somehow, an “unintentional procedural step” happened in that process, causing an “anomaly” that doubled the primary firing sequence, the report said.

The launch codes directed the entire sequence of fireworks to fire all at once, and then launch as expected.

“The command code was initiated, and the ‘new’ file did exactly what it ‘thought’ it was supposed to do,” the report says. “It executed all sequences simultaneously because the new primary file contained two sets of instructions. It executed the file we designed as well as the file that was created in the back-up downloading process.”

The Big Bay Boom — supported by public funding and private donations — is produced by H.P. Purdon & Co., a San Diego business set up by Sandy Purdon in 1977. Purdon is a general partner at Shelter Cove Marina and a former chairman of the San Diego Port Tenants Association.

Purdon organized the first Big Bay Boom in 2001 to bring tourists and money to the bay’s hotels and restaurants. A portion of the money he raises for the show also supports the San Diego Armed Services YMCA’s programs for military families, he said.

The San Diego Unified Port District is the show’s title sponsor and contributed $145,000 in cash and up to $50,000 of in-kind donations, which paid for law enforcement and other services, said Michelle Ganon, a port spokeswoman.

Purdon has said he raised about $400,000 in all for this year’s show.

August Santore, a co-owner of the family owned Garden State Fireworks, has offered to produce the show for free at a later date. It has not been announced whether he will be taken up on that offer. Purdon said that no decisions have been made but that they are leaning toward having a show next Fourth of July.

Purdon said Thursday that despite Garden State’s offer, he would still go out to a fireworks bidding process in October. He said the sponsors remain excited about the future and that none have said they wouldn’t be involved next Fourth of July.

“We certainly apologize again for the lack of a show. It was certainly spectacular but not the way we intended and we are just so thankful that nobody was hurt and that our safety precautions were adhered to,” Purdon said.

 

Videos on YouTube

See More Videos >>

Everyone from the Port of San Diego, the sponsors, Garden State Fireworks and the producer, Sandy Purdon, are very disappointed with what happened on July 4th. We had a great show planned and we all wanted to witness it as did everyone. We realize we have a responsibility to insure this doesn’t happen again and to bring back to San Diego Bay and Imperial Beach one of the great fireworks shows in the country. Our goal now is to fix the problem and organize another show to make up for the outcome of this year’s show.

Thank you for those that understand mistakes and problems occur in life. We don’t take lightly the importance of replacing this disappointment with an exciting and entertaining show in the future.