When Mark Contois took his son Caleb and some friends to play paintball to celebrate Caleb's 10th birthday, he never imagined anyone could possibly get hurt, especially after the game was over.
But as the children stood around breaking down the guns after the game, there was a loud bang, and Contois felt his wife Colette's head hit his shoulder.
"Her right eyes rolled back to the back of her head," he remembers. "I turned and screamed and we both fell to the ground."
As one of the young players was breaking down his weapon, the carbon dioxide canister that powers it unexpectedly separated from the gun and hit Colette Contois in the back of the head. She died instantly.
"Seven days ago, we were having a party. [We] buried her two days ago, and our whole lives changed as we know it," Contois told Good Morning America this week.
Now the family, from Cameron Park, Calif., is facing the fact that Colette is gone. "I went to kiss my son good night," Mark Contois said. "He was just laying there and he had the deer-in-the-headlights look. I reached down and said I'm really sorry for this. I really am."
Then, Contois said, Caleb looked up at him and said, "Dad, he said it was the safest sport — and mom died.'"
Most Participants Unaware of Dangers
Some nine million people use paintball guns each year in supervised games. Powered by carbon dioxide canisters that produce high air pressures, the guns can fire pellets at speeds of up to 300 feet per second.
The industry says the game is safe, but most participants don't know about the potentially deadly danger of the carbon dioxide canisters. Colette Contois was not the first person to die from a paintball accident involving an ejected CO2 canister. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it is investigating five more paintball gun incidents, including the death of a 15-year-old who was struck in the head by an ejected canister.
The CPSC told Good Morning America there is cause for concern. The organization recommends that children should not be allowed to dismantle the guns — adults should handle it, after familiarizing themselves with the instructions.
To find out more, go to CPSC.gov.