Newspaper Archive of
Cape Gazette
Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
July 11, 1997     Cape Gazette
PAGE 12     (12 of 96 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
 
PAGE 12     (12 of 96 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
July 11, 1997
 

Newspaper Archive of Cape Gazette produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2019. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.




12. CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, July 11 - July 17, 1997 Rehoboth fireworks debriefing cause for pride as well as disappointment Angle Moon photo As the designated time for the fireworks to begin in Rehobeth Beach arrived, there was hardly an empty spot to be found, although officials report the estimated 80,000 to 100,000 peo- ple were orderly. Fireworks Continued from page 1 crowds, children crying, angry motorists swearing, were begin- ning to filter out of town. Not wasting any time, the fire- works began lighting the night- time sky blocks before the barge arrived off Rehoboth Avenue at 10:55 p.m., traveling back and forth to entertain the thinned out audience. The process begins When the smoke cleared, offi- cials began the task of trying to as- certain just what happened, all the while knowing that no matter who is at fault, the City of Rehoboth Beach was handed the black eye. It all began with an anonymous phone .call to the Coast Guard headquarters at the Port of Philadelphia sometime before 6 p.m. that Sunday evening. The exact details of the call are under Coast Guard investigation and all Lt. jg Keith Pelletier would dis- close at this time is that they were informed of potential regulation violations on the part of the barge and tugboat operators. Lt. Russell Proctor, who heads up the Coast Guard Station Roo- sevelt Inlet, was called at his home in Dover around 6 p.m., from the CEO at the Philadelphia office and ordered to get an inves- tigation team together and head south and head out to the barge with Station Indian River which was scheduled to enforce the safe- ty zone. He stopped at Roosevelt Inlet along the way and arrived at Indian River at approximately 7:45 p.m., boarding a motor launch and arriving alongside the tugboat at 8:30 p.m. "I talked to the captain and be- gan a preliminary investigation, checking their licenses, paper- work, did an initial review, assess- ing the situation on the tug and then we went on the barge and did the same," Proctor said. The tug and barge are two sepa- rate entities, licensed individually, Proctor explained, and the barge did have a valid certificate of in- spection, which is separate from procedures pertaining to that par- ticular evening's task. Proctor lists reasons Following  the inspections, Proctor-re-boarded his boat and contacted the three volunteer fire patrol boats stationed nearby and discussed the situation he found. He also contacted Philadelphia with his initial finding of "safety and licensing problems. I knew time was of the essence, but had only one hour to assess the situa- tion." He received a determination from his superior officer that the fireworks should be canceled and that the tug be ordered to the Delaware Bay anchorage at be- tween 9:20 and 9"30 p.m. This determination was based on the following: A crew on a standard watch is not permitted to operate more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period and that trig had left Chester, Pa. at 6 a.m. By the time Proctor boarded the tug, they had operated for more than 14 hours and it was their intent to do the show and proceed back to Chester, he said. The credentials of the captain of the tug allowed him to operate the vessel in the Delaware Bay, but not in the ocean. The tug's "load line require- ment" was not properly docu- mented for outside the bay. There was not adequate fire fighting equipment on the barge. After issuing the order, Proctor proceeded to inform resort offi- cials on shore and headed.back to Indian River Inlet, which was the end of his involvement "in the evening's event. Snyder, City Manager Greg Ferrese and Rehoboth Main Street President Kathy Kramedas McGuiness were not about to take this news lying down. "I was de- termined, but didn't know what we'd do," McGuiness said. Snyder got on the phone with Cmdr. Michael Riley in Philadel- phia, assuring him that if allowed to proceed with the fireworks they would continue to maintain the three fireboats afterwards; contin- ue to maintain a safety perimeter for the barge; notify the Coast Guard following the show so that they could deal with the tug oper- ator; and that all necessary per- mits had been obtained. Riley gave the green light at about 10:15 pm., but by then the barge was 40 minutes away and did not return until 10:55 p.m., when the long-awaited (officials estimate that over half the people remained in town) volley began. Notification important Ferrese and Snyder are especial- ly upset that they weren't notified a problem may be in the works un- til minutes before it was sched- uled, when Proctor had been in- specting the tug and barge for the past hour. "We also explained to Riley that there would be even greater safety considerations than fatigue and lack of a license if the crowd was told there would be no fireworks," Ferrese said, stressing they wouldnot have pushed for the show to go on if they weren't completely confident that every- thing was in order and that all safety precautions had been taken. Pelletier said their investigation involves safety issues which are in the interest of serving the public and additional issues which affect safe navigation, all of which will be explained when the report is is- sued. He was unable to give a time frame as to when that may be. Continued on page 17 By Trish Vernon If the fireworks had only gone off as seamlessly as the rest of the evening's efforts, there would have been high-flying all around at the July 7 debriefing session. "On behalf of the city, we thank all of the individuals who helped and the eighty-to-one-hundred- thousand people who came out," said a subdued Rehoboth Beach City Manager Greg Ferrese. "It was such a good feeling to walk down to the beach and see it packed," as he thanked the local and state police, public works de- partment, beach patrol, Kiwanis Club and Main Street, which orga- nized and raised funds for the event - aliproximately $40,000. He also thanked Chuck Snyder for his persistence as he negotiated with the Coast Guard, "to make it a reali. "People told me it was an awe- some display, and the enthusiastic crowd was orderly - our plan worked and I think I'd like to do it again next year - on time!" Ferrese noted he heard of nary a complaint before right before the fireworks were to blast off at 9:30 p.m., when the word began circu- lating that they had been canceled. The Lord came through Rehoboth Main Street President Kathy Kramedas McGuiness, worrying about the consequences if all of these people left the beach disappointed at one time, "prayed to the Lord and he came through. That's why we have Rev. [John] Dean on our committee." She went on to thank everyone involved as well, apologizing for the delay as did Ferrese. 'Tin sor- ry everyone was upset; but people would like to see it come back," McGuiness added. From the perspective of the Re- " hoboth and South Shores Kiwanis clubs, who manned the special satellite parking and bus trans- portation into town, everything went very smoothly, according to Kiwanian Jim Rasa. He reported that they parked 330 cars and had over 200 walk- ons from the four satellite lots, bringing in $1,894 of which $947 went toward the cost of the buses, etc., and the rest distributed to Main Street and Kiwanis' chad- ties. Rasa estimated that perhaps - one-third of their travelers left be- fore the fireworks began at around 11 p.m. Next year they hope to change the bus loading-unloading pattern they shared with the DART bfises to avoid back ups. Volunteers outstanding Fire Chief Snyder, who was at the command post, reported that he "didn't know blood pressure could get that high," as he endeav- ored to convince the Coast Guard to allow the tug to return. The Re- hoboth Volunteer Fire Company reported only three minor inci- dents that evening, and coopera- tion with other volunteer fire de- partments was outstanding, he re- ported. Police Chief Creig Doyle admit- ted that "two years ago, I was one of the biggest naysayers when it came to fireworks. Despite the snafu last night, I was very pleased with how the plan worked. People were happy to have the first block of Rehoboth Ayenue closed - they felt very safe. By midnight, the town was back to normal," he said, as traffic flowed relatively well given the number of vehicles parked in every available space in town. PA system needed If fireworks are approved for next year, Doyle advised a public announcement system be set up, as the night before they could have spread the word more quick- ly that the tug was returning. Lastly, he advised higher media visibility prior tO the event, as he felt it was lacking. State Police Lt. Peter Schwartzkopf, deputy commander of Troop 7, agreed a PA system is needed, which would help with lost children as well. He said they were surprised how much traffic came in from the south. Rev. John Dean gave the event his blessing, noting "I have great concern for community spirit, to have people gravitate to the event is a great thing." Rehoboth Mayor Sam Cooper summed it up by saying what a great privilege to see all of the groups work together. "Rehoboth can fight amongst itself like any community - but I was euphoric until about 9:30 p.m.," he said. He had only one criticism - that July 6 was a case in point that one person needs to be in charge. "Chuck did a great job, but it didn't fall to him to have to make that decision," Cooper added, not- ing that a better communication system for the police, lifeguards and other officials is necessary. Asked if she had anything to add, Main Street Executive Direc- tor Anne Made Burnell said "last night was the longest night of my life, but I can't thank everyone enough for their help and coopera- tion." Asked if she thought that the fireworks night stimulated busi- nessfor Rehoboth merchants, McGuiness replied that she heard 'some it di d, others not." Carol Everhart, executive direc- tor of the Rehoboth-Dewey Chamber of Commerce, reported following the meeting that some merchants reported high pedestri- an traffic and created additional business for many. "This proved that if you provide a beach and something additional, as well as friendly, convenient transporta- tion, you'll have as much foot traffic as you can handle," she said. She praised the transportation plan, stressing that'while she heard some grumbling of disap- pointment, overall reaction has been positive, and the mportant thing is the plan worked.