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Premature July 4 fireworks 'big, fast'

SAN DIEGO -- The American Independence Day fireworks display above San Diego Bay was over in a flash after a malfunction that the show's producer blamed Thursday on a computer glitch caused the planned 20-minute spectacle to burn up all at once.

The mishap Wednesday occurred minutes before the scheduled opening of the Big Bay Boom show, the Coast Guard said. Guard spokesman Rich Dann told U-T San Diego that he's never seen so many fireworks go off at one time.

Online video shows multiple light bulb-shaped explosions flaring up from barges in the bay, lighting the night sky over downtown San Diego. Rapid snaps and pops punctuate the blazes, which begin to fizzle and sputter in a matter of seconds.

Show producer Garden State Fireworks, the Port of San Diego and the San Diego Fire Department said there were no injuries. Hundreds of thousands of people witnessed the short-lived spectacle.

Garden State Fireworks has apologized, saying they're working to determine what caused “the entire show to be launched in about 15 seconds.”

August Santore, part-owner in the company, said tens of thousands of fireworks on four barges and a pier had been prepared. But because of a glitch or virus in the computer firing system, they all went off with one command, he said.

“Thank goodness no one was injured. Precautions all worked 100 percent,” Santore said.

The 122-year-old company produced hundreds of holiday shows across the country Wednesday night.

Santore said the company feels “terrible” about the mishap.

Garden State Fireworks has staged pyrotechnic displays for the 1988 Winter Olympics, the Statue of Liberty Bicentennial Celebration and New Year's Eve in Central Park, New York.

“We are a good strong company, and we rely on technology. We'll take the ridicule as long as no one was injured,” Santore said.

The Port of San Diego and dozens of area companies and civic groups pay about a quarter million dollars to put on the show, said Michelle Ganon, director of marketing and communications for the port.

Ganon said she understood between 350,000 and 500,000 people were expected, but she was waiting for an official crowd count later in the day.

This was 11th year of Big Bay Boom show in San Diego.

Special parking, carpools and free shuttles were set up, the San Diego Trolley was packed, hotel rooms facing the bay were sold out, a patriotic score was set to be simulcast on a local radio station and the show was set to stream live on the Web.

“After the big explosion, a lot of people were in awe ... until nothing came after it,” San Diego resident Michael Freeby told U-T San Diego. “The general consensus was that there had been some budget cuts. I waited nearly an hour after, and seemingly so did the large crowd, including people who apparently camped for the fireworks and were still there when I left. Total disappointment!”

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In this photo provided by Ben Baller, yachts are illuminated in the foreground as a malfunction causes the entire Fourth of July fireworks show to go off all at once over San Diego ...

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