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ERRANT ROCKET MARS HOLIDAY IN CONNECTICUT

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An errant rocket from the town's Independence Day fireworks display plowed into a crowd of spectators and injured 19 people, at least two of them seriously, authorities said.

The shell veered off course during the finale of Wednesday night's fireworks display at Fuessenich Park, Fire Lt. Nick Florio said. The display, which drew a crowd of more than 10,000, also marked the town's 250th anniversary.Witnesses said the rocket exploded, showering the tightly packed crowd in the west end of the park with flaming debris.

"One lady was blown out of her seat," Scott Pro of Brookfield told radio station WSNG. "It's one of the worst things I've ever witnessed."

Jody Lothier, another witness, said a young child was struck in the face with the burning material and another youngster flew 15 feet in the air after being hit.

"It just lifted him off the ground," she said.

Police Chief Mahlon Sabo said the rocket skidded across the ground from the launch site, injuring spectators 400 feet away.

Frank Rondinelli, a spokesman for Vitale Fireworks, said the company is working with police and fire officials to determine the cause of the explosion.

Among those injured was 3-year-old Robert Shopey, who suffered multiple burns. The child was flown by helicopter to a Hartford hospital, where he was in stable condition early Thursday.

Rebecca Shopey, 23, was in serious condition in Torrington's Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, where she was being treated for burns to her eyes and face, a hospital spokesman said. One-year-old Ashley Shopey was treated there and released, the hospital said.

Sixteen other people were treated at Charlotte Hungerford and two were admitted, one in serious condition and the other stable, said Robert Summa, an associate administrator there.