A teen inventor from Thousand Oaks, California, tragically died after testing out a rocket-powered skateboard device he built with a friend.
According to the Huffington Post, 18-year-old Bernard Moon fashioned a homemade rocket to a skateboard as part of a school project. The teen was planning on entering the rocket-powered skateboard into the science fair if he got the invention to work before April 20. But when Moon and an unidentified 17-year-old companion tried to test the device last Monday, it failed to launch. When Bernard and his friend went to check on the skateboard to see what went wrong, the rocket exploded.
Police released a statement following the incident saying, “Tragically, the homemade model rocket exploded injuring both teenagers.”
Local news KTLA reported on the rocket-powered skateboard accident, claiming the explosion took place at Madrona Elementary School at 7:40 p.m. Monday night. An ambulance arrived on the scene to find Bernard Moon and his friend injured and alive. Both of the teens were rushed to Los Robles Hospital, which is only a few blocks from the school. However, Bernard Moon succumbed to his injuries before medical professionals could save him.
The autopsy conducted by the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that Bernard Moon died of blunt force trauma. The explosion was ruled an accident.
The 17-year-old teen who helped Bernard Moon with the rocket-powered skateboard only sustained minor injuries and is now in stable condition.
Both boys were students at Thousand Oaks High School, which released a statement about the rocket-powered skateboard tragedy on their Twitter page.
Our hearts are broken. But the bonds of faculty, staff, & students will bring healing. Thank you to all for your support at this time.
— Thousand Oaks HS (@ThousandOaksHS) April 5, 2016
According to Ventura County Sheriff’s Captain Garo Kuredjian, the rocket Bernard Moon used on the skateboard was not bought from a store, so it was likely completely homemade. It was only about 12 inches long and less than an inch in diameter, but apparently had enough combustive power to take the life of its inventor.
“It wasn’t meant to go up into the sky,” said Kuredjian. “It was meant to go horizontally to propel a skateboard.”
Presumably, either Bernard Moon or his friend eventually planned to ride the rocket-powered skateboard, but police aren’t sure if one of the teens was attempting this during the trial run explosion.
Despite the failure of the rocket-powered skateboard invention, Thousand Oaks High School parent Tammy Coburn claims Bernard Moon and his friend were both “brilliant boys.” She asserted that Moon’s death was simply the result of “a horrible science project accident gone wrong.”
Coburn was actually at the school at the time the rocket-powered skateboard was being tested. She was attending a Boy Scout and Girl Scout meeting when she heard an explosion from the courtyard. A Girl Scout leader who used to be in the military immediately knew it was an explosion and went to investigate.
“Nobody could really discern what it really was because it was a huge explosion, but it was just all at once,” said Tammy. “Just a ‘boom!’ That was it.”
Bernard Moon had successfully placed at the Ventura County Science Fair in both 2014 and 2015, so his rocket-powered skateboard might have actually won an award if it hadn’t malfunctioned. Other students were encouraged to wear the school’s colors to honor Moon last Wednesday.
“He was just a cool kid,” said a friend, Ken Zhou. “He was a nice person… He could make you laugh. He was just the kind of person that you would want to interact with.”
[Photos via Facebook and Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]