Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Status Report: World Championship Punkin Chunkin

The big boy Punkin Chunkin event in Delaware is at a crossroads following the tragic accident at their World Championship Punkin Chunkin (WCPC) in Bridgeville, Delaware, on Sunday, November 6th, 2016.

The latest news is that the competition has lost its broadcast deal with the Science Channel. That announcement was made in mid-February. But, the WCPC president, Frank Payton, did say that the 2017 Punkin Chunkin will still be held November 3rd - 5th at Wheatley Fields near Bridgeville, Delaware. Now, they just need to find some new partners/sponsors to help support the event.

Punkin Chunkin President Frank Payton holds press conference
WCPC President Frank Payton holds press conference
Feb, 13, 2016 / Newsworks.com:
Delaware Punkin Chunkin loses broadcast deal with Science Channel --
... Punkin Chunkin president Frank Payton says the Science Channel will not return to Delaware for the 2017 event. "With them withdrawing from the event, a major portion of the funding that we need to operate has left with them," Payton said. "We are in the market to establish new mutually beneficial partnerships for 2017."

Payton said the group already has a commitment from a farmer to host the event at Wheatley Farms near Bridgeville on Nov. 3-5, but they need more support to make it happen. "If you wish to see the Chunk continue, we need your support now more than ever," Payton said in a plea for help...
Here's the link to the WCPC Facebook video of the full press conference.

The details about the aftermath of the WCPC accident were not widely reported. Here is what happened.

During the last few hours of the WCPC competition, when the air cannons were completing their final round of firing, shortly before 2:40 pm, the "Pumpkin Reaper" air cannon blew a large metal trap door, about the size of a car door, off of it's air tank during their 3rd and final shot. The metal door flew about 30 to 40 feet high in the air and landed on two people, a 39-year-old women and a 56-year-old man. The most seriously injured was the women, Suzanne Dakessain, a video producer for the Science Channel. The heavy metal plate had hit her on the head. Ms. Dakessian was stabilized at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and then flown to Christiana Hospital. She needed emergency surgery to remove part of her skull in order to relieve brain swelling and save her life. The male victim was also taken to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. He received treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.

Suzanne Dakessian in the hospital after the Punkin Chunkin explosion
Suzanne Dakessian needed emergency surgery after the Punkin Chunkin accident

"There's a piece of bone missing from my head right now," Dakessian said. "I look in the mirror and see these purple raccoon eyes. Before this accident, my life was easy. My biggest concern was getting to work on time. Now, I struggle putting on a jacket. I struggle zipping a zipper. I struggle opening a sugar packet. Right now everything is very unpredictable but I'm just trying to stay hopeful."
As of late November, Ms. Dakessian was blind in one eye and she could not move one of her hands. She still required more surgery and she was transferring to New Jersey to take rehab.

Best wishes to Suzanne Dakessian for her speedy recovery.
Pieces of ironically named "Pumpkin Reaper" are blown off the air cannon


Suzanne Dakessian before accident9
Suzanne Dakessian before accident
Lisa Rose / Nov. 28, 2016 / CNN:
Injured 'Punkin Chunkin' producer disappointed show is off, faces long recovery --
Suzanne Dakessian's memory of the explosion is hazy. She ran as a large metal plate flew toward where she and other TV crew members were standing.

For a split second, she turned to see where the debris might land. That's when the plate struck her head.

I tried to run and I didn't make it," Dakessian said.

The 39-year-old New York television producer nearly died this month on a clear blue Sunday in a Delaware soybean field, where she was chronicling the 2016 World Championship Punkin Chunkin for the Science Channel...


Although the final results were not formally published by WCPC, news reports from the event said that on the last day of the 2016 World Championship Punkin Chunkin competition the trebuchet, Colossal Thunder, from the Northeast Technology Center in Afton, Oklahoma, had won. This machine was built by high school welding students, who had won the youth trebuchet championship in 2013. This time they took home the adult championship, with a throw of 2,625 feet on the final day. Good job out of you OK folks.

Colossal Thunder - 2016 Adult Trebuchet Champions

Also, the New Hampshire air cannon, American Chunker, had fired a pumpkin 4,305.92 feet on Day 2 of the event. So it was apparently leading that competition, when the event was cancelled on Sunday following the accident. Good job out of American Chunker; Brian Labrie and his team did it again.

The American Chunker website has a bunch of nice pictures that were taken at the 2016 WTPC in Bridgeville, Delaware, including this last one:

Punkin Chunkin Warning Sign - activities are inherently dangerous

2 hurt, 1 critically, after Punkin Chunkin explosion --

Lisa Rose / November 21, 2016 / CNN:
At Punkin Chunkin smashing pumpkins is a celebration of America --

More chunks:

There are now only 186 days until the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival on Sunday, September 23, 2017. Do you know where your pumpkins are?

BTW, the Jay Community Recreational Centre in Jay, VT would like to have a trebuchet or catapult demonstrate their pumpkin chuckin' prowess at their fall event, which will be held on Saturday, October 7th, 2017, two weeks after our VTPC. If you are interested please contact:

Sally Rivard, Chair
Jay Community Recreational Centre
285 North Jay Road
Jay, VT 05859
tel: 802-318-1206