Sunday 4 November 2007

Almost killed in freak trebuchet pumpkin flinging accident

Well, killed is probably exaggerating slightly. Here's how it went down.

We went to the World Championship Punkin Chunkin event in Delware, which is basically 70,000 people watching semi-trailer-sized air cannons fire pumpkins as far as possible across a field.

This event is possibly the weirdest and coolest thing I have seen so far. Check out our photos on flickr, or the official gallery. The world champion is second amendment, a 14 ton monster with 30 m barrel that holds the world record of 4,434.28 ft (1.35 km). Pumpkins are a standard size of 3.6 - 4.5 kg. There was a strong wind blowing (absolutely freezing cold), which meant no world records were set, but the best of the day was '10 inch' at 3,416.15 feet (1.04 km). Friggin amazing.

There are heaps of different categories, my personal favourite is the Trebuchet, despite one almost cleaning me up.

We were standing behind one of the trebuchets that was about to fire. Rigid safety standards were in force - i.e. there was a small net behind the machine and some effort was made to part the crowd behind the machine just before firing.
I was standing just to the side of the "cleared" area, with Em and our friend Nando a few steps away.

While the safety guy was still trying to get the people parked in camping chairs to move away from the back of the machine, the guy who owned the trebuchet decided it was time to let loose. So people weren't even watching when the 4 kg pumpkin came out of the sling early and hurtled directly towards me. Luckily I had been paying attention and frantically pushed my way out of its path, but in less than a second from leaving the trebuchet it hit the crowd, smashing into a man and the young girl he was carrying. He had been pushing out of the way like everyone else and got tangled in a camp chair.

Amazingly both he and the girl seemed OK, and an ambulance arrived a few minutes later to take them away. The organiser's reaction was 'we told you to get out of the way' and they started firing again a few minutes later. Nice. This kind of put a dampener on the day, so we went and got something to eat then made our way back to the car. Just as we were getting back to the car we heard a dull thunk - another pumpkin had been launched out of a trebuchet backwards, flown over the crowd, and almost made it to the parking lot. At the start of the day I had been more worried about the gigantic air compressors exploding!

Centrifugal catapult throws pumpkin

"Yankee Siege" trebuchet lets loose

Compressed air pumpkin cannon

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