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Act goes awry, human cannonball dies

By Tom Watkins, CNN
  • The incident occurred during Scott May's Daredevil Stunt Show
  • The British Press Association said a safety net failed during the stunt
  • Police have not released the victim's name

(CNN) -- A man who was taking part in a human cannonball show in Detling, England, was fatally injured Monday when the event failed to go off as planned, Kent police said.

The incident occurred in the afternoon during Scott May's Daredevil Stunt Show at the Kent County Showground, southeast of London, police said.

The British Press Association, citing police, said a safety net failed to engage.

A Kent Police spokesman declined to identify the man beyond saying he was in his 20s. Relatives of the man had been informed of the mishap, but his body had not been formally identified, a police spokesman said.

A statement on the Scott May website said all shows had been canceled "until further notice."

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

David Smith Jr., who holds the Guinness Book of World Records entry for distance shot from a cannon (59.05 meters), said he had not before heard the terminology about a safety net's failure to engage, but 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 in a telephone interview.

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.