GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- A Michigan man who was fatally injured when a cannon exploded in a backyard during a baby shower was within 15 feet of the device when the blast occurred, police said.
Evan Thomas Silva, 26, of Hartland, was struck by metal shrapnel in Saturday night's explosion outside a home in Genesee County's Gaines Township, about 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. He was taken in serious condition to Hurley Medical Center in Flint, where he later died.
Four or five people were in the backyard when the small cannon was fired, but Silva was standing about 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) away and was the only person struck by shrapnel, Michigan State Police said. Three parked cars and the garage where the baby shower was being held were also struck.
The cannon, which was fired by the homeowner as a family was celebrating a baby’s pending arrival, was similar to a Signal Cannon, more commonly used as a novelty item. Police said the homeowner had bought the cannon at an auction and had fired it several times before.
It's suspected that the shrapnel came from the cannon breaking apart during the explosion, police said.
“The cannon is designed to create a big flash, a loud noise and create smoke,” state police said in a news release. “The cannon did not contain any projectiles, but it is suspected that the gun powder loaded into the device caused the cannon to fracture, resulting in shrapnel being spread in the area.”
State police Lt. Liz Rich told WJRT-TV that “the cast material exploded and sent projectiles in all directions. ... If there aren’t regular inspections on a device like this, the cast material can wear away.”
Following an investigation, the case will be sent to the Genesee County prosecutor for review, police said.
In recent years, some gender-reveal events — where devices eject confetti, balloons or other colored objects to announce a soon-to-be-born child’s sex — have taken a dangerous turn.
In September, a couple’s plan to reveal their baby’s gender with blue or pink smoke sparked a wildfire that burned thousands of acres in Southern California. And in 2019, a homemade explosive used to reveal a baby’s gender killed 56-year-old Pamela Kreimeyer in Knoxville, Iowa. The device was meant to spray powder but instead blew up like a pipe bomb.