Tragedy struck the venue of the yearly Punkin Chunkin pumpkin flinging contest in Delaware after an apparatus used to launch pumpkins into the air (later described as an air gun) exploded. The explosion reportedly left several people at the venue injured. According to initial reports, a man and a woman were among the badly injured. The woman, a 39-year-old individual, was critically injured and was rushed to a nearby hospital where she is undergoing treatment. There were reports initially about one death following the incident. This has, however, been refuted since then. The incident occurred at the Punkin Chunkin Contest in Bridgeville, located around 30 miles south of Dover.
According to USA Today, the man and the woman were hurt when the air cannon went off and sent large pieces of material from it. One large piece reportedly hit one of the injured persons in the head. The man is said to be a 56-year-old individual who was hurt with non-life threatening injuries.
According t0 David Aronson, a 52-year-old resident of Falls Church, Virginia, he was at the venue when the incident took place. Aronson said that he was just 25 yards behind the cannon when it exploded. He revealed that the cannon had just fired a pumpkin when a large piece the size of a car door blew off from the launcher and hit the woman who was trying to run away from the explosion.
“It arcs down on this woman who is running away as it hits her.”
Aronson recalls that the accident happened even after the organizers had several safety apparatus in place for an eventuality like this. He confirmed that the area was covered with safety nets and all spectators were kept more than 25 yards away from the pumpkin launchers.
After the large piece of debris hit her, the woman was knocked onto the ground where she lay motionless. Within seconds, a large crowd had assembled around her and emergency services were called in. A competition announcer then asked the crowd to pray for the victim. After emergency services arrived, she was airlifted to a hospital where she is undergoing treatment. Shortly after the incident, the announcer also announced that the contest was over. Later, Master Cpl. Jeffrey Hale of the Delaware State Police revealed that both the victims were not part of the crowd – but happened to be among the launchers. He went on to add that an investigation was launched into the incident with no further details as of this writing.
Another witness to the incident was an individual identified as Kerry Collias. According to Kerry, he had just walked into the venue when he saw the air cannon malfunctioning. He revealed that the cannon that malfunctioned was named the Punkin Reaper and that it was registered to 21-year-old Will Schell.
Punkin Chunkin dates its back to 1986. The competition involves several contestants launching pumpkins from homemade contraptions, many of which are air-powered with long cannons and hauled on the back of trucks. The event has had its fair share of controversies and was canceled for the past two years. One of the reasons was a lawsuit filed against the event by a former Punkin Chunkin volunteer Daniel Fair, who rides around the grounds helping determine the distance pumpkins traveled from their machines. Daniel’s lawsuit was regarding an injury that he had sustained during one of the events. He claimed that Wheatley Farms Inc., the owner of the property, and Punkin Chunkin Association were liable for a spinal injury he suffered when the ATV he was riding flipped. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
[Featured Image by Jim Dietz/AP Images]