One of Delaware’s iconic events is being canceled this year.
Organizers say Punkin Chunkin will not happen this November as planned due to a pending lawsuit by a woman critically injured during last year’s event.
According to a statement posted on its website, organizers are reluctant to host this year’s event planned for November because of a lawsuit filed August 16 by 40-year-old Suzanne Dakessian against Punkin Chunkin, its leadership, the State of Delaware, Delaware's Department of Natural Resouces and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Wheatley Farm in Bridgeville, where the event is held.
Dakessian, a producer for The Science Channel’s planned show on last year’s event, suffered critical head injuries from a metal trap door torn off a nearby air cannon during a botched launch last fall.
Dakessian’s lawsuit says she was left with severe and permanent injuries because of negligence and wrongful conduct by the defendants. She’s seeking economic and non-economic damages and compensation for pain and suffering, past and future.
The Science Channel decided not to air its show as scheduled Thanksgiving weekend after the accident and in February, cut ties with World Championship Punkin Chunkin. The Science Channel had been among Punkin Chunkin’s top sponsors for years.
The future of Punkin Chunkin is now up in the air.
Last year’s event was the first after a two year hiatus forced by a previous lawsuit.
That suit was brought by a volunteer spotter on an ATV suffered serious injuries at the 2011 edition of the event after being thrown from his vehicle while he was measuring launch distance.
A judge dismissed that $4.5 million lawsuit in 2015 after an undisclosed settlement, according to the News Journal.
Because of the suit, Wheatley Farms near Bridgeville declined to host the event in 2014 and 2015 without more extensive insurance coverage.
World Championship Punkin Chunkin tried to relocate to grounds outside Dover International Speedway during those years, but those attempts never came to fruition.
This year's Punkin Chukin was to be the 32nd edition of the event.