CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga - At least 57 people, most of them students of Kolehiyo ng Subic, were injured after fireworks they were using accidentally exploded during a school cheering competition in Subic, Zambales, Wednesday night, police said on Thursday.
Following the loud explosion, participants, students, and spectators screamed and scampered to safety.
When the smoke of the blast cleared, more than 50 students were seen sprawled all over the floor of the gymnasium, crying and asking for help, while seven who attended the activity also sustained burns and injuries.
Almost immediately, everyone was helping. The serious ones were rushed to the hospitals in Olongapo City. While others were seen picking pieces of shattered flesh and clothes.
In a report reaching the office of Chief Supt. Allan L.M. Purisama, Police Regional Office 3 (PRO3) regional police director, investigators led by Senior Inspector Nelson dela Cruz, Subic Police Station chief, revealed that a bottle filled with gunpowder that was used as props caused the explosion.
Dela Cruz said that while a team of cheering squad was performing their stunts during the competition, Ferdinand Telmo, 28, the team choreographer, brought in n 8-ounce bottle of softdrink filled with gunpowder (pulbura) and placed it at the back of the performing team at the center of the basketball court.
"It was intended to do some special effects for the final stunts," said a female student who wishes anonymity. A few seconds before the stunt show ended, Telmo poured the gunpowder onto the floor.
However, when Telmo ignited the powder with lighted mosquito coil, the remaining powder inside bottle exploded like home-made bomb, sending glass shards all around injuring at least 55 students.
Seriously injured were Telmos whose right hand was amputated, while Ronalyn Dilo-Dilo, Mylene Pacampara, and Laida Erodias suffered 2nd degree burns and injuries caused by glass shards.
Dela Cruz said that should the investigation found negligence on the part of the school that led to the incident, a criminal case may be filed against the school administration.
"The school administration should explain why they allowed a large quantity of gunpowder to be used as props in the middle of many spectators during the program. (With a report from Jonas Reyes)