A New Year’s Eve fireworks display ended with fears for the safety of thousands watching on the beach after a huge explosion caused a flaming inferno on the display barge about 150 metres from shore.
Crowds eager to watch the 9pm fireworks display on Terrigal Beach were evacuated after the barge caught alight, forcing the two technicians on board to dive into the water to escape.
Crowds have been evacuated from Terrigal Beach, after a barge carrying fireworks caught alight during their 9pm show. Photo: Pip Cleaves/Twitter
Revellers scattered and police and ambulances rushed to the resort beach when the explosion occurred about five minutes into the 9pm display.
“The fireworks were going off as you’d expect and then suddenly there was a hell of an explosion. Next thing the barge was on fire,” said Terrigal resident Kevin Andrews.
Another spectator said the huge explosion “sort of hit you in the chest” and left the barge “well and truly alight right in front of the surf club”.
The technicians were rescued by passing boats and a spokesman for NSW Fire and Rescue confirmed that they were safe, but the men were understood to be shaken by the experience.
“Two men on the barge suffered minor injuries and were treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to hospital,” a NSW police spokesman said.
The police spokesman confirmed that a “large crowd on the beachfront was evacuated as a precaution” following the malfunction.
Emergency services responded to the incident just after 9pm, with four fire trucks on scene, as well as responders from NSW Police, NSW Ambulance and NSW Marine Rescue.
An exclusion zone was established on the beach, with the barge continuing to float towards the shore on Sunday evening.
Firefighters monitored the barge overnight.
The incident occurred about five minutes into the display when a malfunction caused some of the fireworks to set the barge alight.
Footage posted to social media shows revellers enjoying the show before a fiery explosion prompts some in the crowd to cry out, as fireworks appear to go off “uncontrollably”.
Daina Pace described the moment “fireworks went terribly wrong” in a Facebook post, writing that after the barge caught fire, “fireworks continued to go off uncontrollably in each direction”.
The incident will be investigated by Safe Work NSW.
The fireworks display, organised as part of the ‘It’s Time for Terrigal’ promotion, attracted thousands to the beach for an evening of entertainment, with the fireworks display as the main event. A strong north-easterly wind produced choppy conditions for the barge moored in front of Terrigal Surf Club.