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Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...

 
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12/20/2006 12:07 PM
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Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
[link to seattlepi.nwsource.com]

Boy hurt by cannon blast feels twice wounded
Accident in football town elicited threats, not get-well wishes

SNOHOMISH -- The cannon shot that ripped into Brett Karch's leg, causing a gaping combat-style wound, has also torn a hole in his hometown community of Snohomish.

Karch, whose leg was nearly amputated and who faces more than a year of physical rehabilitation with an uncertain outcome, has been the target of physical threats because of fears his injury will jeopardize the community's tradition of firing the ceremonial cannon before each high school football game and after touchdowns.

For more than 30 years, the blast of the cherry-red cannon has ignited the roars of fans whenever the home team scored in this football-proud town. With its tree-lined streets, gingerbread-trimmed Victorian houses and hills crested with historic churches, the town is devoted to its traditions, including its beloved cannon, which students in the school's metal shop built after a previous cannon gave out in the mid-1980s.

Football and the cannon were entwined, like popcorn at the movies. And football and Snohomish were even more so.

"Football is a huge part of the community," said Paula McVey, mother of a Snohomish student. "When there's a game on, you can hear it going from anywhere in town."

Shooting off the cannon was the town's salute to the game that launched many notable football careers and entertained generations.

But the shot that nearly took off Brett Karch's leg now leaves the fate of that tradition in the air, and that has upset some in the community.

According to Karch's medical records, security guards notified police after Karch received disturbing phone calls and visits from parents and students, some of whom threatened to "break his other leg" or worse, if he didn't keep quiet about the accident. Hospital staff had to move him to a secure room where they monitored visitors.

Callers and visitors told Karch they would "make sure his other leg got blown off," and that "there would be retaliation" if the family cooperated in an investigation that could end the cannon tradition, said Mary Bissel, Karch's mother. "That's when I kind of got a little upset," Karch said.

The threats also included mention the family would be "banned from the town," Bissell said. She's been warned not to talk to a lawyer, or reporters.

The allegations of threats, as well as the cause of the accident, remain under investigation. Hospital security reported the threats to the Everett Police Department, but police, who came to the hospital to interview Karch and his mother, won't release the incident report, citing the open investigation into the cause of the accident.

Tradition all but gone
The tradition of firing a cannon at football games has all but disappeared in most school districts, which makes this one that much more endearing to its community.

"This one was grandfathered in," said retired Marine Corps. Col. John Mack, who heads the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training unit at Snohomish High School and is in charge of the squad that fires the cannon. "We're the only school allowed to do it."

Being on the cannon-firing squad was a source of pride for Karch, who joined the ROTC unit last year to help him toward his longtime goal of becoming a Marine. Karch, a lanky, personable 16-year-old, had hoped to do Special Forces reconnaissance work one day.

"Brett wanted to serve his country," said Bissel. "Now we're just hoping he will be able to use his leg. I never imagined this would happen on a football field."

On Oct. 6 -- the night of the Snohomish Panthers big homecoming game against rival Everett High School -- Karch prepared as usual for the firing of the cannon.

He helped roll the coffee table-sized artillery piece to the field where he and two other cadets packed the barrel with about 5 ounces of gunpowder.

With 10 seconds to go before the game, Cadet Alex Brown, 18, the officer in charge of the firing team, began the countdown.

The other cadets stood at attention except Karch, who leaned in, finger at the ready.

"Fire," Brown commanded. Karch pulled the trigger.

The boom, which normally rattled the bleachers, was louder than usual, witnesses said.

The concussion temporarily deafened Brown, who couldn't see through the smoke for several seconds. When the smoke cleared, he saw Karch lying on the ground clutching his left leg.

"I almost thought he was joking, and I going to yell at him, 'It's not funny,' " said Brown. Then he heard Karch's screams.

The cannon was blown apart. Pieces of it landed 30 feet away, some even touching down in the end zone.

"My leg went flying, and I fell on my right side," said Karch. "Kids were staggering around. I looked at my leg and felt it burning."

"Did it blow my leg off, is my leg still attached?" he recalled asking the closest cadet to him. But the deafened student couldn't hear him.

Within seconds, medics and senior officers sprinted to his side. The team of emergency medical technicians standing by in the event of a football injury rushed Karch into a waiting ambulance.

The priority on the playing field, however, was the game, which didn't stop as Karch was carried off the sidelines to an ambulance, witnesses said.

Not much can stop football in this town, where the pride runs deep. The two-time state champions have generated many notable players and coaches over the years. Dick Armstrong was known as the "winningest coach in Washington state high school football history" by the time he retired in 1994. In his 32 seasons as head coach at Snohomish, Armstrong, who died in 1999, racked up 243 wins and won or shared 16 league titles, including 13 in a row.

As play continued, Karch was taken to Providence Everett's Colby Campus, where doctors initially told his stunned mother they weren't sure they could save his leg. Karch has since undergone three surgeries to implant a titanium rod the length of his shin to replace the decimated bone and to graft skin over the shredded tissue. In February, doctors plan to graft bone from his hip into his leg to help it heal.

"My leg was in so many pieces, it was like a jigsaw puzzle," said Karch.

"If this had happened to a football player, you can be sure he would have been airlifted to Harborview," said one parent of a ROTC member, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

Brown, too, was shocked and later angered by the apparent lack of concern for the seriousness of Karch's injury.

Rumors circulated almost immediately among students that Karch must have packed the cannon incorrectly, and some of the cards and comments have suggested that he deserved what happened to him.

Karch said he didn't do anything different that night, a view shared by his ROTC leader Mack, the retired Marine Corps colonel, who said the team follows military protocols for loading and firing the cannon.

Mack had the cannon X-rayed earlier this year. Fred Langer, an attorney representing the family, said those results showed a stress fracture in the metal, although it's not clear yet whether that had any bearing on the explosion.

No decision has been made yet about whether to acquire a new cannon to ensure the tradition continues, said Snohomish High School Principal Diana Plumis.

"We're certainly not getting that one back," she said. "It was obliterated."

No friends at party
That's what seems to worry many of those who have contacted Karch, who has gotten cards indicating the tradition of the cannon is too important to lose.

"Football wouldn't be the same without the big boom at kickoff," wrote one student in a get-well card.

The reaction of some community members has taken the family and its supporters aback.

"Snohomish is usually a pretty tight community," Brown said. "Usually when something like this happens, groups come together. But that didn't happen this time."

Since his discharge from the hospital on Oct. 23, Karch has had only three visitors -- two of them Mack and Brown. And despite invitations to school friends, not a single person other than family attended his 16th birthday celebration in November, Bissell said.

Bissel suspects some of the reaction may be because she retained a lawyer to help her understand legal forms the school district asked her to sign after the accident. She has not filed any legal claims against the school or the district. According to Langer, the school district has been cooperative and has said it plans to establish a fund to pay for Karch's medical expenses.

What Bissel wants for her son, though, is the emotional support of the community they've lived in for a decade.

On a recent school day afternoon, Karch, who has not been able to attend regular classes since the accident, rode past his old school in a cabulance on his way to an Everett clinic for a weekly changing of the thick dressings that wrap his wounds. Kids had spilled out of the school, and he tried to wave to Brown, who drove by.

Karch said later he wondered whether the kids milling around even realized that he was in the ambulance van going by.

The persistent hostility, and loss of friendships, make him sad, but he's trying not to dwell on it.

He's working hard during weekly physical and occupational therapy sessions, hoping to regain enough function to qualify for the military.

McVey has tried rallying support for Karch's family by raising money for dinners. Her initial attempts raised $200, nearly all of it coming from schools other than Karch's own.

The lack of response still puzzles her.

"You have a kid here who's lost part of his leg, who may always have a rod in it," she said. "Where's the compassion? How would these guys feel if it were their son? Would the cannon really matter?"
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 12:10 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
wow, what bunch of callous bastards!! Give them entertainment and food....just like in Caligula's times
freaks!
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 12:12 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
Sure glad I don't live in that town where there are such jerks they care more about firing a cannon than a boys well being. X that place off of a place to move to.
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 12:13 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
What a bunch of assholes.
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 12:15 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
A few weeks ago, our little town's football cannon blew up as well, injuring a young man here. He sustained severe head injuries. Our little hometown paper didn't even write it up! And the game went on, as if nothing had happened. Yes, we here in America take our gladiator sports quite seriously, and what's a little carnage in the face of that?
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 12:20 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
Time to move I guess...

Who the fuck would want to live in this kind of town anyway?
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 12:34 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
Not much can stop football in this town, where the pride runs deep.

Pride goeth before the fall. Town of damned losers.
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 12:58 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
Now, now... lets pray for those losers. They're SO going to get blasted by cannon balls in 2012. Every last one.

devil6
AC
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12/20/2006 01:16 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
Wasn't this one of the towns where Ted Bundy used to go hunting?
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 01:24 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
homeruhh
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12/20/2006 01:39 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
He must be black in a redneck town.
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 02:01 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
Just when you thought you had heard it all. What the hell is the matter with people!??!

gaah
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 02:18 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
There is a reason why these cannon fireings have been removed from these types of events.

That reason is pretty self evident now dont you think?

What a bunch of backwards morons.
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 02:39 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
big fucking deal, ,have a fake cannon and buy some P.A. speakers to make the same sound. Fucking retards.

Sod their stupid cannon, how would they like it if it blew their legs off!?
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 02:42 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
What a bunch of assholes.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 13067


Yup.
a passing cloud

User ID: 156562
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12/20/2006 03:17 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
typical subhuman behavior from dumbed down ogres....if they could they'd play football with human heads. and if this were my kid and you made a serious threat to him, i know whose head it would be too!

i guarantee you they are all bush supporters.
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12/20/2006 03:27 PM

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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
typical subhuman behavior from dumbed down ogres....if they could they'd play football with human heads. and if this were my kid and you made a serious threat to him, i know whose head it would be too!

i guarantee you they are all bush supporters.
 Quoting: a passing cloud

i guarantee you they are all bush supporters.<<

Nah, you can't play football with a Republican head anyway, so Most likely they're all Democarps. You need the high air content of a Democarp head to get the proper spiral, so these footabll supporters are most likely Dems. Besides most Reps follow the NFL and could give a crap about little league High School football, Reps are mostly big leauge type guys, plus I don't think they have any Reps in the Seattle area, too much Starbucks and Granola for us for us.
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Ooooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very streets today...
Burns like a red coal carpet, Mad bulls lost the way...
War, children, it's just a shot away...it's just a shot away....
REAR VIEW (NLI)
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12/20/2006 03:31 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
JUST IN CASE YOU FOLKS HAVEN'T FIGURED THIS OUT YET, IN MIDDLE AMERICA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL IS AS PASSONATE AS THE NFL.

PARENTS WILL KILL FOR THE GAME!

AND IN TEXAS THE PARENTS WILL MURDER AND MAIM TO GET THEIR KID TO PLAY OR GET ON THE CHEERLEADER SQUAD.
Sir_Chancealot

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12/20/2006 03:33 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
From the way the article started off, it sounded like it was going for a "Hey, this kid did something really stupid" angle. But when you read the later half of the article, it doesn't sound like the kid did anything wrong, unless it was by mistake. Either the article isn't telling everything, or there's some seriously fucked up people in that town.
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 03:36 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
How can a cannon blow up if the barrel is empty, ie. no cannon ball,just a wide open barrel?
Nero
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12/20/2006 04:08 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
Avaitation/Military town?

Sure have got the mindset down . . .

wakeup
a passing cloud

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12/20/2006 04:21 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
they didn't call it TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE for nothing.
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 04:29 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
JUST IN CASE YOU FOLKS HAVEN'T FIGURED THIS OUT YET, IN MIDDLE AMERICA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL IS AS PASSONATE AS THE NFL.

PARENTS WILL KILL FOR THE GAME!

AND IN TEXAS THE PARENTS WILL MURDER AND MAIM TO GET THEIR KID TO PLAY OR GET ON THE CHEERLEADER SQUAD.
 Quoting: REAR VIEW (NLI) 150179



wow

americas f*cked up eh
b3ksmith
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12/20/2006 04:30 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
F them folks...take care of your son's leg... get a board certified personal injury attorney... make them pay!
Anonymous Coward
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12/20/2006 04:42 PM
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Re: Teen gets leg blown off by cannon accident at football game.. townspeople want to blow off his other leg too...
How can a cannon blow up if the barrel is empty, ie. no cannon ball,just a wide open barrel?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 159906


Black powder has two uses...

First and foremost is as a controled burning propellant...When firmly packed in a barrel, it will rapidly burn from the ignition source to the end of the propellant along the flamefront...The resulting expanding gasses will accelerate a projectile that is firmly placed against the powder, and in fact 'burns' best under slight compression...

The other 'use' of black powder, is as a low explosive...
When ignited while NOT under compression, black powder can and will 'explode' (not 'detonate' as that is an aspect of high explosives) which is basically the entire mass of powder burning at the same instant releasing mass amounts of expanding gasses which will find the path of least resistance...Sometimes this is not the opening of the barrel...

In a signal cannon, you need to compress the charge with a 'wad' of some type to keep the charge under slight pressure...If the wad is only reamed partially down the barrel, there is too much remaining airspace, and the entire charge may 'explode' at once...

Trust me...It happens more than you think...Especially with people that are not aware of the dangers and correct techniques...

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