THE man responsible for York's fireworks display has admitted he was taken by surprise when 80,000 people turned up to watch.

In email communications obtained by the Evening Press, City of York Council cultural events manager, Peter Boardman, said the "sheer weight of people" ground streets to a halt, with marshals having to deal with "very difficult circumstances."

He says the council met with police before the event. "What nobody could have foreseen was 80,000 people coming into town for what we never advertised or referred to as a "spectacular display," but one which was always intended as a backdrop to other events in the town."

He says that fortunately, there were no accidents requiring hospital attention.

But the Evening Press can reveal today that a man fell into the icy waters of the River Ouse as people strained to get a view of the fireworks, while another claimed that a taxi had run over his toe during the crush near Duncombe Place.

Eyewitnesses Colin Avery and Steve Horsley said the man fell in the river after crowds of people standing near Clifford's Tower realised they could not see the fireworks and surged into Tower Gardens.

Mr Horsley said the man, who he thought was in his 50s or 60s, had apparently slipped through a gap between a jetty walkway and a handrail, near where boats are hired out, and into the water.

Mr Avery said: "He surfaced about a minute later clinging to the edge of the bank. His grandchildren were in hysterics. He tried to get out, but could not, due to his weight and wet clothing. "Another male came along and told the family to get clear and let other men get him out which they did."

Mr Horsley said he did not believe the man had been at risk of drowning, but asked: "How many more things can this council get wrong?"

Andrew Fravigar said he saw a very angry man near the Theatre Royal traffic lights, shouting at stewards: "I just had my toe run over by a taxi".

"We did not see the actual incident, just witnessed the angry exchange. I think part of the anger was also due to the disappointment of the display. The man walked away."

Mr Boardman's comments come after a council spokeswoman declined to reveal in detail why the authority had wrongly predicted that the display would be visible throughout the city centre: further details see pages 22 and 23.

Were you either the man who fell in the river or the man whose foot was run over by a taxi? Call Mike Laycock on 01904 567132, or email

Updated: 09:33 Wednesday, November 09, 2005