BRIDGEVILLE, DEL. - A man and woman were injured Sunday after an explosion at Punkin Chunkin Sunday, according to Delaware State Police, who previously reported a person had died.
The two were hurt when an air cannon went off, sending with it large pieces of material from the cannon. As people were running away from the cannon, a large piece of the cannon hit a person in the head.
The 39-year-old woman was injured by the apparatus as it fired, according to Master Cpl. Jeffrey Hale, Delaware State Police spokesman. She was treated at the scene before she was taken to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, he said.
She was then stabilized and flown to the Christiana Hospital emergency room, where she remains in critical condition, according to Hale.
Kerry Collias, who had just gotten to Punkin Chunkin when the incident occurred, saw the air cannon malfunction and the aftermath up close. Shortly after the incident, as organizers were asking people to clear out, they announced over the loudspeaker that they had taken a woman to Nanticoke Hospital and asked attendees to pray for her, Collias said.
A 56-year-old man was also injured in the explosion. He received treatment for non-life-threatening injuries and has also been taken to an area hospital, Hale said.
One of those injured was struck in the head and went down motionless at the Bridgeville event. Paramedics, state troopers and fire personnel were called into the roped-off scene, closed to team members and the media. The injury occurred in an area open only to team members, staff members and media – the public was stationed behind a fence farther away.
A state police helicopter landed in the fields at the Punkin Chunkin event after the injuries to aid paramedics and multiple ambulances at the scene.
Detectives continue to gather information at the event grounds. More information will be released as it becomes available, Hale said. Police are still trying to determine what exactly caused material to fly from the cannon.
This isn't the first incident that has left a dark mark on the event.
A lawsuit filed in 2013 by a former Punkin Chunkin volunteer effectively grounded the event the past two years. The lawsuit was filed by Daniel Fair, a former Punkin Chunkin "spotter," or volunteer who rides around the grounds helping determine the distance pumpkins traveled from their machines.
Fair's complaint alleged 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 dismissed in June 2015.
"The parties mutually agreed to resolve the matter," said Stephen A. Hampton, the attorney representing Fair, to The News Journal in 2015.