Safety pros: Ever feel like performing your work duties (preventing injuries) while volunteering for a nonprofit/charity? It’s an unfortunate truth: People are injured while volunteering, too. Well, a group in Delaware that raises money for charities via its annual Punkin Chunkin contest is being sued by an injured volunteer for negligence.
For those familiar with punkin chunkin (and SNA knows of what we write — we witnessed this fall spectacle one year), you might think the volunteer was hit by a flying pumpkin. That’s not the case. More about that below.
But for the uninitiated, chunking a pumpkin means hurling one skyward using air cannons, centrifuges or huge catapults. Builders of these machines compete to determine, within their category, who can hurl a pumpkin the farthest.
Enthusiasts pay $10 to watch the contest which now spreads out over three days in Bridgeville, DE. Punkin Chunkin benefits local charities.
On Nov. 25, 2011, volunteer Daniel Fair of Lewes, DE, suffered spinal fractures while volunteering at the event.
Fair was a spotter. The spotters stay at the sidelines of the field until a pumpkin lands. Then, they race on all terrain vehicles (ATVs) to mark the landing spot. An official then determines the distance from the launching line. The spotters also have to clear the field quickly so they don’t get hit with the next flying pumpkin.
While traveling at 30-35 mph, Fair’s own ATV hit a depression covered by grass, which sent him and the vehicle flying. The ATV landed on him.
He lost sensation below his chest, was hospitalized for nearly 11 weeks, and needed surgery. He’s partially recovered, but uses a wheelchair much of the time. He can only use a walker for short distances. Fair lost his job and has hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Fair is seeking medical expenses and damages. He’s suing the Punkin Chunkin Association and Wheatley Farms where the contest is held for negligence related to training and supervising spotters, safety measures, and conditions at the field.
The association declined comment on the lawsuit, but it says security measures have been added this year. All volunteers must sign a liability notice before stepping onto the field. The speed of ATVs is being monitored by security staff.