Strange Occupations - Human Cannonball Launched to His Death
Human cannonball launched to his death when safety net collapsed
Human cannonball Matthew Cranch is seen moments before he died after a safety net failed during the stunt at the Kent County Showground.
A human cannonball died after the safety net he was fired towards collapsed just moments before he hit it – two weeks after taking up the stunt man job.
Matthew Cranch, 24, was fired 40ft into the air before a locking mechanism on the “unsensibly” designed net failed and he plunged head first to the ground.
Dirt and debris on the equipment may have contributed to the lock appearing “falsely closed” which was then susceptible to movement or vibrations from the firing cannon, an inquest heard.
Mr Cranch had only been with Scott May’s Daredevil Stunt Show for two weeks and was taking part in his 12th event.
He died on his way to hospital having suffered multiple injuries.
Video footage of the fatal moments was shown to the inquest in Kent, which is being heard by a jury.
He could be seen being propelled in a puff of smoke out of the cannon as spectators shouted “Three, two, one, fire”.
Mr Cranch’s father Michael, a company director, mother Pauline, a teacher, and sister Eleanor left the room while the footage was played.
Mid-Kent and Medway coroner Patricia Harding said: "Matthew Cranch himself was performing a stunt called the human cannonball.
"There is a cannon mounted on the back of a lorry and it is fired into a safety net nearby.
"In this particular case, as Matthew was fired out of the cannon, the net collapsed, causing Mr Cranch to land on the ground."
Mechanical engineer Alex Grimes said: "It was found that the falsely closed latch was susceptible to opening by movement or vibrations from the firing cannon.
"Testing showed if the latch was closed in this false position, movement from the chassis could cause the latch to open.
"Analysis confirmed that the equipment was heavily contaminated with dirt and debris.
"This could have contributed to the false closure of the latch but it could have still been achieved if the equipment was clean."
When asked to comment whether he thought the design of the equipment was 'sensibly or unsensibly designed', Mr Grimes agreed on the latter.
Scott May's Daredevil Stunt Show has been touring the UK since 1991 and features motorbike and monster truck stunts.
Company owner Scott May attended the inquest with two employees, Tommy Austin and Tony Nicholls, who are both due to give evidence during the three-day hearing.
Mr Austin, who was responsible for attaching the safety net to the lorry with two of his colleagues, said: "I had been involved in the set up of the human cannonball since I started (working for the company in 2008).
"I checked it (the net on day) was secure by pulling on the metal wire and putting body weight on the net itself.
"I pulled upwards to check it didn't come away from the hook."
When asked by Ms Harding if he was aware the latch could shut in a false-closed position, Mr Austin said: "No".
He said he had never witnessed the net collapsing before it was supposed to and said: "I am still stunned by it today."
Mr Austin said while it was the first time he had attached the net that season, he had done it many times before.
Ms Harding said a Kent Police inquiry launched following the death of Mr Cranch, who was originally from the Isle of Man but was living in Cornwall at the time, was handed over to Maidstone Borough Council who have "health and safety functions".
Kent Police announced back in December 2012 that no criminal prosecution would be brought over the incident.
At the inquest Ms Harding read statements from paramedic Helen Chapman and doctor Natasha Newton, both who attended the scene of the accident.
Mr Cranch had suffered serious injuries to his heart, head and chest.
The inquest continues.