San Diego

10 Years Later: Where Were You When San Diego's Big Bay Boom Went Bust?

It may have been the biggest boom of them all

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Everybody loves fireworks, sure, but not everybody was a fan when ALL the fireworks went off all at once back in 2012. The catastrophic glitch may have been the biggest boom of them all.

As they normally did every year, thousands of people gathered along the shores of San Diego Bay for what was supposed to be a typical Independence Day celebration. The fireworks — which take months of planning – were ready to go off at 9 p.m. in honor of America’s birthday.

But five minutes before the show, a computer glitch changed the entire night.

A sudden burst of hundreds of fireworks shot into the air — all at once — over the bay, creating a deep, bass rumble throughout downtown. It was a spectacular failure, with the explosions creating a massive light mushroom, a white orb seemingly brighter than the sun, in the sky.

Then, as fast as they started, the flashes stopped, and a massive cloud of spent gunpowder and paper slowly, silently drifted across the night.

The 15-minute show lasted about 15 seconds. Actually, it was more like 30 seconds.

Fireworks Mishap Big Bay Boom 2012: Your Pics

The guests, thrilled about the start of the show, waited in enthusiastic expectation for the rest of the show. Understandably confused when the night stayed silent, about 25 minutes later, a radio announcement informed them the show was over – there were no fireworks left.

“We apologize to all the residents and all the people who missed their fireworks,” Garden State Fireworks co-owner August Santore said. He said the company took “100% responsibility” for the computer glitch.

Nothing like it had ever occurred at the Big Bay Boom, which first began in 2001, according to its website.

No injuries were reported from the short-lived but massive show.

Soon, the Big Bay Boom Bust was national news, and San Diego was a fireworks laughingstock. Friends called from out of town "Did you see it?" People shared their battle stories: "I was waiting to go up the ladder to the roof and missed the whole thing!" "I was downtown and the sky just BLEW up. I'll never forget it."

"[A] glitch mashed two data files together, creating a third file that commanded all the shells to be fired at once," NBC News reported a year after the bust.

In the end, Santore said his company, which has blowing stuff up for pay since 1890, would do a make-good.

"To make up for last year's misfire, 'We're doing the show for free this year,' Santore told NBC in 2013, "which amounts to an estimated value of $125,000."

The Port of San Diego canceled the Big Bay Boom in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the display returned last year, and the rockets are ready to glare red again this coming Monday. Here's a roundup of all the 2022's 4th of July celebrations.

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