Cannon explosion kills youngster, rescue crew blamed

In Thurston County (Olympia), Washington, a cannon explosion during a backyard party fatally injured 8-year-old Devan Vyborny. “Now, more than 14 months later, the boy’s family is taking legal action, but not with anyone having to do with that cannon. Instead, the boy’s parents are blaming rescue crews and 911 dispatchers. … Despite the scathing allegations, the rescue crew’s actions had not been called into question until the claim was filed.” (Ray Lane, “Family of boy hit by shrapnel seeks $47 million”, KOMO, Sept. 23).


  • According to the story by KOMO News, the lawyer said the lawsuit is meant “to send a strong message to Thurston County regarding its rescue crew’s alleged incompetence”. Tort lawyers love to “send messages”. But the only message he is sending by suing the deep pocketed county, that attempted the rescue, and its insurance company, instead of the person who set off the cannon, is about how the greed of lawyers has distorted the tort system in this country.

  • “An attorney for the family said the the exceptionally large claim for damages is meant to…also to send a strong message to Thurston County regarding its rescue crew’s alleged incompetence.” Once their liability premium quadruples, Thurston County will have plenty of funds left over to ensure for proper training for its EMS/EMT staff. This should really be good for everyone.

  • I really am surprised that more localities don’t just eliminate rescue services. Given the number of people lawyers say they kill each year, I am amazed that Congress hasn’t acted to ban them.

  • I am amazed that Congress hasn’t acted to ban them. Do you think that maybe with the number of trial lawyers who are members of Congress, or perhaps given the stream of income…err…”support” which comes from trial lawyers, that Congress (as a whole) has any interest shutting off the spigot on this litigation factory?

  • Cannon? Shrapnel? Party? Am I missing something here?

    Every time a patient dies, a medical tort lawyer gets his wings.

  • This has got to be one of the most absurd things that I have ever heard of.

    I might be wrong, but the last time I checked cannons were illegal under ATF laws. These laws even extend to spud-guns. I want to know who’s going to jail for this child’s murder? He was killed during the commission of a felony, wasn’t he?

    More information can be found here.

  • What kind of cannon was involved? If it was a carbide cannon, then I’m not aware that they are forbidden by federal law.

    Even black powder cannons cannot be forbidden, though they may be controlled and licensed.

    Modern cannons, I guess, can be pretty tightly forbidden to all but military units, but I still see/hear them at college football games, usually under the control of some ROTC unit. They get hauled out for outdoor performances of the ‘1812 Overture’ as well.

  • Nothing like profiting from the death of one’s child. $47 million meant to help the family memebrs? Help them get set up for life, maybe.

  • John,
    The laws are about the amount of black powder that can be used and about firing projectiles from a cannon. The cannons you are referring to are used for celebrations and salutes and fire charges that are specifically designed to make noise, smoke and muzzle flash using minimal charges of black powder without firing a projectile.

    This cannon obviously had a projectile loaded, otherwise it wouldn’t have exploded. If the barrel was open then the force from the detonation would have vented out of the muzzle and there wouldn’t have been enough force to throw parts of the cannon 200 ft.

  • This cannon obviously had a projectile loaded,…..

    I am not so sure about that. You can still over pressurize cylinder such as a cannon with just powder or…..


    One of the articles I read about this incident said that they police found a stash of fireworks at the party. My first thought was as the (relatively) smaller cannons are always over engineered to withstand much high pressures than the charge creates, what could possibly cause the cannon to explode?

    Hey!! Let’s put some fireworks in it!!

    I guess that you would be right if you included fireworks as a projectile of some sort, but a couple cherry bombs (equilivant to 1/2 stick of dynamite) can do a lot of damage as well.

  • Last time I checked “cherry bombs” (M-80’s) were illegal. They would have also blown clear if the barrel wasn’t blocked. I’ll take any and all bets that somebody stuffed something besides black powder or fireworks down the barrel of that cannon.

    What bothers me is that if somebody robbed a store in that County and the clerk died of a heart attack during the robbery, there would be no hesitation in charging the robber with at least manslaughter.

    Here you have a child killed by what is obviously negligence, during a possibly criminal act and no charges are filed. Yet a lawsuit against the people who tried to save that child’s life is allowed to proceede. What in the hell is going on?

  • An excerpt from the article:

    “The court documents allege “witnesses observed that the Medic One personnel appeared overwhelmed by the situation, and they did not know what medical devices to use on Devan.”

    The documents also state the medics did not get the boy to the hospital fast enough, and even contend the ambulance drove too slowly.

    The 911 operators on duty “negligently canceled” a helicopter airlift, the family alleges, and the county’s medics and 911 staff are not properly trained.”

    Yeah, right. The attorney smells a potentially big payday because a child died and there might be an “emotional” rather than rational judgment in this case. Sadly, that just might happen.

  • It sickens me that the death of a child, at the hands of the people he was with; has been blamed on the Medic One team whose sole purpose is to save lives. These are highly trained individuals who deal with trauma everyday.
    The shrapnel that struck the little boy SEVERED his aorta…DUH! This means that the boy bled out in a matter of minutes. Paramedics do not carry blood on their rigs, and they can’t perform miracles. Perhaps if the family had any intelligence, they would have omitted the canon from their fireworks show, because it’s DANGEROUS???
    I am in sensed by this accusation made against Medic One personnel. This is just a sick way to put the blame on anyone other than themselves, while making a “few” bucks in the process.
    I recommend people do a little background search regarding the boys father…you will be surprised, it brought things into perspective for me.

  • […] “The parents of an 8-year-old boy who died after his grandfather fired a cannon that exploded at an outdoor Fourth of July celebration in 2007 have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Thurston County.” [The Olympian; KOMO; earlier] […]