Delaware Public Media

Science Channel drops TV deal with Punkin Chunkin

Feb 11, 2017

Following an air cannon explosion that left one of its crewmembers seriously injured last year, The Science Channel has cut ties with World Championship Punkin Chunkin.

The Science Channel had been among Punkin Chunkin’s top sponsors for years, airing a highly produced special on the event – generally over the Thanksgiving holiday.

But now, after one of its producers suffered critical head injuries from a metal door torn off a nearby air cannon during a botched launch last fall, that relationship is ending.

State police initially reported the woman dead, but Christiana Hospital discharged her nearly three weeks after the accident.

Another man was also treated for non life-threatening injuries.

Science Channel representatives didn't return requests for comment Saturday.

A press release from Punkin Chunkin president Frank Payton says a major portion of the group’s operating funding is gone and they’re hoping any new TV contract and community support will help cover it.

"We will be moving forward this year. There is too much at stake to give up now," Payton wrote.

They’re also accepting individual donations online under the URL "we need hope."

The organization has a venue locked in for 2017, but it’s unclear what form the event might take.

In 2011, a volunteer spotter on an ATV suffered serious injuries after being thrown from his vehicle while he was measuring launch distance.

A judge dismissed a $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.