But the plan went horribly wrong when the gunpowder inside the cannon exploded, fracturing its metal frame and launching shrapnel into the air.
One piece of the cannon flew about 10 to 15 feet and struck 26-year-old Evan Thomas Silva in the chest, seriously injuring him, Michigan State Police said in a statement to WJRT on Sunday. The man, who was a friend of the hosts, later died at Hurley Medical Center in nearby Flint, Mich.
Metal shards flew as far as 25 feet, police said. Pieces of the cannon also hit three parked cars and a garage, but no one else was harmed, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The homeowner had purchased the cannon at an auction and previously fired it on multiple occasions, MLive.com reported. Police described the device as similar to a “signal cannon,” which is often used as a novelty. The cannon should have set off a loud bang, a flash of light and a puff of smoke, police said.
The Michigan family was not attempting a gender-reveal stunt, police said, but the incident mirrored similar ill-fated events that have turned deadly and even started devastating wildfires. As dramatic celebrations at baby showers and gender-reveal parties have grown increasingly common, the blogger who is widely recognized for starting the gender-reveal trend online has urged people to abandon the showmanship in the name of safety.
Late last summer, a couple setting off a smoke bomb to reveal their baby’s gender ignited wild grasses inside El Dorado Ranch Park in Southern California, starting a wildfire that burned for more than a month and scorched 22,744 acres. It was the second fire started at a gender-reveal party in 2020, following one in Florida last March.
A Border Patrol agent similarly sparked a wildfire in April 2017 by firing a rifle at a target filled with colored powder and the explosive substance Tannerite. The blast set nearby dry brush on fire, causing the Sawmill Fire that racked up $8 million in damage.
In Iowa, a family accidentally built a pipe bomb in an attempt to set off a blue-or-pink flash in October 2019. When the bomb exploded, a piece of shrapnel struck the baby’s grandmother, instantly killing her. Another gender-reveal party that year led to a plane crash when a pilot, intending to drop 350 gallons of pink water, flew too slowly and stalled the plane. The pilot was unharmed and a passenger suffered minor injuries.
Police are investigating whether the cannon that exploded in Michigan malfunctioned or if the blast was caused by user error.
“There may have been too much gunpowder in there — that’s what our bomb squad suspects, that that’s the reason the entire thing exploded,” Lt. Liz Rich, a police spokeswoman told the New York Times.
Police said the investigation is ongoing and will be forwarded to the county prosecutor for review, MLive.com reported.
Meanwhile, Silva’s family is mourning his death.
“He has left behind a loving family, countless friends and memories in all of our hearts,” his brother, Phil Silva said on Facebook on Sunday.