Danny Morales was enjoying Simi Valley's Fourth of July celebration Thursday night until he got hit between the eyes by part of an exploding firework.
"It happened pretty quick," Morales, 42, of Simi Valley said Friday, about 10 hours after being released from Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. "The lights dimmed down. Everyone faced the fireworks setup. The first two went off good. And then the third one just never lifted off and exploded.
"Next thing you know, a couple minutes later, another one explodes at ground level," Morales said. "And that's the one that pretty much got me. Nailed me right between the eyes. A huge gash on my nose."
Morales was at the fireworks show at Rancho Santa Susana Community Park with his brother, Victor, 40, and other family members and friends. Their party was near the front of the event sponsored by the Rotary Club of Simi Valley, closest to the fireworks.
Danny Morales was among at least 36 people injured by the explosions and aftermath, including four with severe to moderate injuries. The cause of the mishap is under investigation.
Morales felt like he had been punched. "It made my head spin," he said, but he didn't blackout.
"I was OK, but that's when it hit me: Another one's gonna explode," he said.
People started screaming "get down, get down, get the kids," and he dove behind an ice chest, he said.
After the explosions stopped, "I got up and looked around," Morales said. "I was still a little dazed. People were screaming to get out of there and looking for their kids, because at this point it was dark. All the kids were crying. It was just crazy."
Someone told him he was bleeding, and he used a napkin to try to stem the flow. Paramedics arrived a short time later.
"They were there really quick," he said. They examined his nose and then had him sit down in an area reserved for the injured.
"It wasn't life-threatening," Morales said. "The bleeding had slowed down at that point."
Victor Morales, 42, who returned with his son to the park Friday to pick up a barbecue grill and other things they left behind, said his hip was hit by an unknown object.
"It was too dark to see anything ... just balls of light coming toward us," he said.
He said six of his family members, including brother Danny and a pregnant woman, had to go to the hospital.
Danny Morales said he was one of the first to board an ambulance en route to the hospital. "I didn't really have a chance to check out who else got hurt," he said.
He spent several hours at Los Robles, where he underwent a CT scan. Doctors determined his injuries weren't serious and he was released about 2:30 a.m.
"I was cleaned up, stitched up and was good to go," he said.
Reflecting on the episode, Morales realizes it could have much worse.
"It was pretty scary," said Morales. "The doctor told me I was very lucky, because half an inch to the right or the left and I would have lost an eye. I'm really glad no one else got serious injuries, too."
Thursday night was also scary for Terri Mongiello, 52, who was watching the fireworks with her teenage daughter in their driveway across the street from the park. When the explosions occurred, a large wooden chunk -- apparently part of a firework -- came crashing through her front fence.
"If anyone had been standing right there, they would not be alive right now," she said Friday, holding the projectile.
In the ensuing panic, she slipped and fell, bloodying her left leg beneath her knee.
An ember from the fireworks started a brush fire on a fenced area of her property where she keeps goats, she said. Bystanders kicked dirt on the flames to put the fire out.
She's lived across from the park for five years and has never had any concerns about the annual fireworks display. Now she does.
"Very much so," said Mongiello, who owns a children's party jump and water slide business. "We still feel shocked." ___
BEFORE YOU GO
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