A television producer sustained life-threatening injuries when an air cannon used to project a pumpkin through the air exploded, striking her in the head with a metal plate. Susan Dakessian, 39, was in Delaware on November 6, covering the 2016 World Championship PunkinChunkin for the Science Channel. The event typically includes catapults, trebuchets, slingshots and air cannons designed to hurl pumpkins through the air.
According to witnesses, Dakessianand another person were standing in a restricted area near the firing line when the air cannon blew apart. Dakessian says she saw a metal plate coming toward her and ran. When she looked to see where the debris might land, the plate hit her in the head.
Organizers say it’s the worst accident in the 30-year history of the event. In 2011, a volunteer was seriously injured and filed a lawsuit, causing the event to be canceled for two years while organizers worked out new safety regulations. This year’s competition, the first since 2013, banned alcohol on the firing line and required that all machines be inspected prior to use. Officials say that Dakessian was wearing a hard hat at the time of the explosion, but the force and weight of the plate rendered that pretty useless.
Dakessian was taken to a local hospital, where she had a part of her skull removed to accommodate brain swelling. Doctors say she will likely need months of rehabilitation. Dakessian had no opinion on whether or not PunkinChunkin should be permanently canceled. She was, however, disappointed that the Science Channel chose not to air the special on the event. According to industry watchers, the annual show was one of the most watched of the year.