Skull Creek fireworks display fizzles in face of control-board malfunction

Instead of the rockets' red glare, no bombs burst in the air at a Fourth of July celebration Thursday night on Skull Creek.

A control-board malfunction prevented the fireworks from being ignited from a barge, leaving thousands of spectators on Hilton Head Island with nothing to ooh and ahh about.

By 9:45 p.m., 15 minutes after the show was to start, Andrew Carmines knew something was wrong.

"I'm just standing there waiting for the fireworks to go off -- and nothing happened," said Carmines, general manager of Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks and one of the fireworks show's organizers.

"People were really upset -- and rightfully so. Everybody makes plans and wants to have a great Fourth of July, and the fireworks are a big part of that. I hated to see people so disappointed," Carmines said.

Shortly after 11 p.m., a smattering of fireworks lit up the sky for a few minutes after the pyrotechnics crew managed to hot-wire a control board.

Then the system failed again.

By that time, most of the crowd had left. Kristin Keller and her 6- and 10-year-old children were already back home on Squiresgate Road when they finally heard the fireworks, she said.

"It was kind of disappointing, but what can you do about it?" she said. "It's not like they did it on purpose."

Jeff Matthews, event producer for East Coast Pyrotechnics, said he won't know what caused the failure until an inspection is done.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't up to par, but we're going to make amends for that," he said. The company is refunding the $16,800 it was paid to put on the how. The pyrotechnics company's contract called for setting off 3,500 pounds of fireworks from the barge.

In all, about $23,000 was budgeted for the show, $8,000 of that from an accommodations-tax grant from the Town of Hilton Head Island, in addition to private sponsorships.

Carmines said event organizers are still deciding what to do with the refunded money, but the show probably won't be rescheduled for this summer.

Instead, he said, there might be fireworks for New Year's Eve, or "the biggest display Hilton Head has ever seen next year."

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.

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