A television producer shooting last year’s “Punkin Chunkin” event for the Discovery Channel has filed a personal-injury lawsuit blaming the event’s organizers and others for critical injuries she suffered when one of the pumpkin launchers exploded.
According to the Associated Press, Suzanne Dakessian filed her lawsuit Aug. 16 in a Delaware federal court against World Championship Punkin Chunkin Inc., Wheatley Farms Inc., Discovery Communications, the State of Delaware, and other defendants.
During the filming of the event on Nov. 6, a cannon being used to launch a pumpkin exploded, blasting a metal plate about the size of a car door and other debris, striking Ms. Dakessian in the head and face, her lawyers said in an announcement.
Her traumatic brain injury (TBI) was so severe, according to the release, that Delaware State Police initially reported her death. She underwent emergency surgery to remove part of her skull and alleviate brain swelling and remained in a coma after the procedure for an extensive period of time. Her lawyers described the injuries as “catastrophic and permanent.”
In addition to irreversible brain damage, Ms. Dakessian also suffered a fractured skull, more than 10 other fractures of the head and face, blindness in her right eye, and serious injury to her left upper extremity resulting in significant loss of its use and leaving her unable to perform her work duties as well as many daily functions, her lawyers said.
The Punkin Chunkin championship is an annual event in which competing teams build cannons, catapults, and other launchers to hurl pumpkins at distances. Some are powerful enough to shoot pumpkins nearly a mile.
Ms. Dekassia’s lawsuit contends that safety and inspection oversight was provided by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Inc., the firm of Eastham and Associates, which organizers retained to act as safety consultants, and others, but that their services and oversight were “sorely lacking, resulting in the use of a dangerous and defective air cannon in close proximity to the nearly 100,000 people attending, including many children.”
According to the AP, the competition had taken a two-year hiatus prompted by a previous accident and personal injury lawsuit filed in 2013 that triggered insurance problems. That lawsuit was filed by an ATV driver who was seriously injured in a rollover accident at the event.
Faced with insurance costs, an additional lawsuit, and dwindling sponsorship, this year’s competition, now in its 32nd year, could be its last.