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Police investigate human cannonball death

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police have launched an investigation into the death of a daredevil who died Monday
  • The incident occurred during Scott May's Daredevil Stunt Show in England
  • Police say a safety net failed during the stunt
  • All daredevil stunt shows have been cancelled pending the outcome of the investigation

(CNN) -- Police have launched an investigation into the death of a 23-year-old man who was killed in a human cannonball stunt gone awry in England, they said Tuesday.

The incident occurred during Scott May's Daredevil Stunt Show at a Kent County showground southeast of London. A man who apparently was fired from a cannon died on Monday after a safety net failed to work, a police statement said.

All daredevil stunt shows have been cancelled pending the outcome of the police investigation, the statement said.

"My officers will be looking into this tragic incident to try and establish what happened," acting chief inspector Steve Griffith said.

Health and safety officials from a local government council also are part of the investigation, Griffith said.

"We need to understand why this poor man died so that we can take the appropriate steps," he said.

The victim's parents have been notified, police said, but his body has not been formally identified and so authorities are not releasing his identify.

The stunt show has been touring since 1991. It features monster trucks, two-wheel driving, fire stunts and car crashes.

"Scott and the team are still reeling with shock and grief over the loss of their colleague and fellow stunt performer in the tragic accident at the show yesterday afternoon," the show said on its website "Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time."

David Smith, Jr., who holds the Guinness Book of World Records entry for distance shot from a cannon -- 59.05 meters, or nearly 194 feet -- said he had not before heard the terminology about a safety net's failure to engage. He also said careful planning can make the shots less dangerous.

Smith, 33, whose father taught the stunt to his seven children, has been ejected from the barrel of a cannon some 5,000 times.

It can be nerve-wracking, the record-holder said, but should not prove disastrous.

"We've never had a cannon not fire or miss a net, and I mean we're talking tens of thousands of cannon shots combined between us all," he told CNN.

After 14 years of taking his act across around the world, "I feel that my cannon shots are probably safer than me driving to the next show -- because I control my environment and I control my equipment."

Still, he acknowledged, "We've had some broken bones and stuff."

He expressed condolences to the family of the man who died.

CNN's Tom Watkins contributed to this report