A manslaughter investigation was opened Friday in an attempt to explain how two people, including a seven-year-old, died in Cholet, western France, on Thursday after a “shooting incident” during fireworks on July 14.
A seven-year-old boy and his 24-year-old sister, who had come with their family, were killed when several projectiles hit spectators a few dozen meters from the launch pad, in circumstances that have not yet been clarified.
A relative of the young woman, in her thirties, suffered severe burns. He was transferred to a specialized unit in the Hospital of Tours (central west) and his days are no longer in danger, according to Angers prosecutor Eric Boulliard.
Six other spectators, including the parents of the two victims, were further injured.
The Public Prosecutor explained to the press that the hearings for artists and organizers began on Friday morning.
“I expect victims to be given quick answers and a light to be shed as quickly as possible,” he said on BFMTV.
The investigation should seek to establish whether all security measures were respected, in particular the proximity of the public to the launch pad, whether standards were respected, and the rules of the art respected.”
Dozens of people attended the fireworks by positioning themselves behind the fences around the city’s stadium, opposite the main square where most of the spectators had gathered, according to several testimonies.
The incident, which was revealed by the daily Courrier de l’Ouest, was filmed and widely broadcast on social networks.
“We were a hundred people 50 meters away from the launch pad,” says Sandy Beauvois, 25, a forklift driver in Cholet.
“It may have been a launcher that had fallen to the ground because we saw a fire start in the launch pad, and ten seconds later a missile had gone off in the middle of the crowd.”
He continued, “We had bursts, everyone got up to put out the fires in the very dry vegetation.” “It was not the only shell that hit the crowd because it was not the one that caused the deaths,” he said.
Asked by AFP during the night about the circumstances of the incident, the public prosecutor referred to a “shooting incident.”
The incident was witnessed by Laurent Piccard who came to the fireworks with his two daughters, aged 8 and 13, and posted some video images on Facebook.
“I was 5/6 meters away from the explosion with my two daughters, and I received sparks and felt the heat of the explosion,” he told AFP. “Fortunately, where I was placed I acted as a shield for my daughters in some way.”
“Is it a skewed missile or has it exploded on its way down? It happened so fast I can’t tell,” he added.
“He was screaming everywhere, it was kind of panicked,” he recalls, still shocked. “I took the girls to safety. It could have been us!”
Cholet Mayor Gil Bordolix explained that security personnel were “advising people” near the scene to “keep away”.
According to him, the municipality has been working “for years” with this “serious” manufacturer, the HTP Breton company based near Rennes according to the Courrier de l’Ouest.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” he commented.
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