One dead, four injured after firework show preparation gone wrong

Posted at 5:08 AM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 20:00:34-04

BROOKVILLE, Ind. — A man who had been well-known for large holiday firework displays died Tuesday night in a fire that consumed his barn and injured four other people. Nine fire departments worked together overnight to put it out.

The victim, Donald Winters, had been preparing for a Fourth of July firework show inside the Whitcomb Road barn, Brookville Fire Chief Aaron Leffingwell said Wednesday morning. Investigators believe a shell accidentally ignited during the preparation, setting the entire structure on fire.

“Due to the damage, I don’t think we’ll ever know where the actual cause was,” Leffingwell said.

Frances Yee saw the smoke rising over State Route 101 on her way back from a Tuesday night dinner at Skyline Chili.

“Pure black,” she said. “It was just pure. I mean, it was like, eight, 10 feet wide just coming up 101.”

The barn was engulfed by the time Leffingwell’s department arrived, 15 minutes after the fire started.

There were no hydrants near the scene, which forced Brookville firefighters to call multiple others for water tanks. Hours later, as hot spots continued to smolder inside the barn, Leffingwell enlisted the help of a local farmer with an excavator to help tear down parts of the shell.

Three of the injured survivors were airlifted to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. The fourth was first taken to a local hospital, then moved to UCMC to receive burn treatment.