A woman was critically injured and another man was injured yesterday in Delaware when a “pumpkin chunkin'” cannon—a device larger than military artillery that used compressed air to hurl pumpkins thousands of feet—exploded as it was fired.
A 39-year-old woman suffered critical injuries Sunday after an apparatus used to launch pumpkins into the air exploded at a large outdoor competition, Delaware State Police said.
A 56-year-old man was also hurt with non-life threatening injuries. Both had been struck by debris from the explosion.
The incident occurred at the Punkin Chunkin Contest in Bridgeville, which is about 30 miles south of Dover. The competition involves dozens of contestants launching pumpkins from homemade contraptions, many of which are air-powered with long cannons and hauled on the back of trucks.
Spectator Daivd Aronson, 52, of Falls Church, Virginia, said he was about 25 yards behind the cannon when it exploded. He said it had just fired a pumpkin when a piece blew off the launcher that was the size of a car door.
“It arcs down on this woman who is running away as it hits her,” he said.
Aronson said the woman appeared motionless as people gathered around her. A short time later, the competition’s announcer asked the crowd to pray as she was flown to a hospital. The announcer then said the contest was over, Aronson said.
It’s not immediately clear why the air-powered cannon failed.
A bystander filmed the accident.
Delaware Online said that the cannon named “Pumpkin Reaper” malfunctioned as it was fired, and the large object that was thrown high in the air was the trapdoor through which pumpkins are loaded into the device. The woman injured was part of a film crew filming a segment about the event for the Science Channel. She ran when the cannon exploded, and turned to look behind her just in time for the door to hit her in the face. She remains in critical condition.
The other person injured by flying debris was a 56-year-old man who did not sustain life-threatening injuries.
Compressed-air powered cannons are among the longest-ranged gourd-hurling devices at the World Championship Punkin Chunkin, with the world record for these air-power cannons being set in 2013 at 4,694.68 feet.
The popular event had been cancelled the past two years due to issues with the organizers obtaining insurance for the event.
The future of the event now seems to be in jeopardy.