A TV producer has filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for Delaware maintaining she suffered “catastrophic and permanent” injuries at the 2016 Punkin Chunkin championship.
Seeger Weiss LLP and The Law Offices of Marc S. Albert filed the complaint on behalf of Suzanne Dakessian, a producer with Sharp Entertainment in New York City. The suit maintains Ms. Dakessian was sent to cover the event at Wheatley Farms in Bridgeville for a program on the Science Channel. During the final launch by a giant pumpkin-shooting air cannon dubbed the “Pumpkin Reaper,” the cannon malfunctioned and giant pieces of shrapnel flew off, striking Ms. Dakessian in the head and causing catastrophic injuries, the suit said.
The annual “Punkin’ Chunkin'” championship is a competitive event in which teams, using various kinds of homemade contraptions, launch pumpkins across distances. Competing air cannons are capable of firing pumpkins over 4,000 feet, nearly a mile.
The suit maintains standards set by Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Inc., safety consultants Eastham and Associates and others were lacking, resulting in the use of a dangerous and defective air cannon in close proximity to the nearly 100,000 people attending.
When the cannon, built and operated by William Schell and Dominick Daffner, was fired, a heavy metal plate about the size of a car door, along with other debris, dislodged and flew into the air, according to the lawsuit. It struck Ms. Dakessian with tremendous force in the head and face, causing injuries so severe that initially the Delaware State Police had reported her death. She was intubated at the scene and flown by helicopter to the Christiana Medical Center, where she was eventually stabilized in critical condition. She underwent emergency surgery to remove part of her skull due to brain swelling, thereafter remaining in a coma for an extensive period of time.
Ms. Dakessian suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of the incident, including irreversible brain damage, a fractured skull, more than ten 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, leaving her unable to perform her work duties as well as many daily functions, the lawsuit said.
“Ms. Dakessian’s life has been irrevocably changed, and those responsible must be held to account,” said attorney Marc S. Albert. “With the manner in which this accident occurred, the defendants’ negligence in the operation, management and control of the event and the inspection of the air cannon in particular—if one was in fact done—is eminently clear.”
Ms. Dakessian is represented by Christopher A. Seeger of Seeger Weiss and Marc S. Albert of the law Ooffices of Marc S. Albert, The case is Suzanne Dakessian v. World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Inc. et al., case number 1:99-mc-09999.