Eyewitnesses relive terror of Bonfire Night in Oxgangs

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TERRIFIED spectators “ran for their lives” when a community firework display went disastrously wrong and sent dozens of rockets shooting towards them.

Mayhem ensued outside Pentland Community Centre in Oxgangs when a rogue rocket misfired during Monday’s bonfire night celebrations and slammed into fireworks gathered nearby, causing them to explode uncontrollably.

John Nesbit

John Nesbit

One eyewitness said parents grabbed their children and ran in “blind panic”, while others struggled to flee because police barriers around the community centre green blocked off escape routes.

It is understood an eight-year-old girl sustained a minor injury and was rushed to the Sick Kids Hospital.

Furious residents today said they were surprised no-one had been killed and slammed the event as unsafe after it was revealed another rocket fired towards the crowd and over the rooftop of a nearby row of shops only 20 minutes before the larger explosions at around 8.15pm.

Terrified local John Nisbet, 38, said he was stunned when the earlier rocket shot over the top of a row of neighbouring shops and landed in the 
middle of the precinct in front of his flat.

Esther Gordon

Esther Gordon

He said his surprise turned to terror when he heard a “massive explosion” coming from the green 20 minutes later.

He said: “It was mayhem. People were running for their lives. The kids were screaming and parents were covering their kids up with their jackets. It was like a war zone – like you were in Bosnia.”

“They should have stopped and made sure everybody was standing further back when the first rocket went off,” said shocked eyewitness and mum-of-three Esther Gordon, 35, who vowed not to take her children Jacob, nine, Luke, seven and Emily, five, to future firework displays.

She said: “You just heard screaming and saw the crowd running. It was like a white arc of light across the whole park.

The Oxgangs firework display goes wrong

The Oxgangs firework display goes wrong

Local resident Claire Elliott, 28, who lives next to the bonfire site in Oxgangs Bank, said: “You could see some of the fireworks hitting the barriers where the public were standing. And the whole thing 
was so close to the nearby buildings.”

Amazingly, one spectator – understood to be event organiser and community centre chair Dennis Williams – appeared in a YouTube video standing close to the fireworks as they exploded. Mr Williams later issued a statement apologising for the disaster.

He said: “The management committee would like to express our sincere apologies for any upset caused following the unfortunate incident at our annual firework display on Monday evening.

“One of the rockets misfired towards the end of the display, and ricocheted into the remaining undetonated fireworks, setting them off all at once. This was a freak accident, and most regrettable, but this is the first incident we have had in ten years of holding this popular community event, and we extend our apologies to everyone who was alarmed.

“We will be reviewing our safety protocols, but it must be stressed that this is a well organised event, approved by the City of Edinburgh Council and the emergency services, and it is a fact of life that sometimes unforeseen things happen, despite the best of planning and precaution.”

Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s community safety leader, said: “The council is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident at the community-organised fireworks display in Oxgangs last night, which was obviously very alarming.”

The Evening News exclusively revealed yesterday how the fireworks display spiralled out of control. Our story was followed up nationally – with the story being picked up on by the BBC among other media outlets.

‘A real risk of death’

SAFETY standards at the Pentland community centre fireworks display have been slammed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Elizabeth Lumsden, community safety manager for RoSPA in Scotland, said she was stunned by YouTube footage of fireworks exploding uncontrollably on Monday night.

She said: “I was shocked to see so many people standing so close to where the fireworks had been gathered. Apart from the risk of death, there was also the possibly of being seriously disabled or blinded by a rocket.

She said she was particularly stunned by footage of an individual standing close to the fireworks as they exploded. She said: “I assume he was one of the organising officials and I was shocked he was standing so close to the fireworks when everyone else was running off – that could have been life-threatening.”