A 14-year-old boy died Thursday evening after a cannon he was building exploded, Sheriff Scott Matheny said.

Archie Pearce was making the cannon in an abandoned lot on Bitter Creek Road in Recluse and was showing the device to a 12-year-old friend, Kaidyn Sletten, about 6:30 p.m when it misfired, Matheny said.

Sletten was evaluated by emergency medical services at the scene, and his parents took him to Campbell County Memorial Hospital for treatment of minor flash burns.

“The intention was to experiment,” Matheny said, adding that the boys didn’t have any malicious intent. “It was just extremely unfortunate.”

Pearce, a Twin Spruce Junior High student, had used a 2-inch steel pipe, cloth and gun powder or firework powder to build the cannon, but he packed too much powder into the device, said Lt. Kevin Theis. Because the pipe was packed too tightly, the projectile inside became stuck, causing an explosion that destroyed the pipe.

“They were in over their heads, trying to do something they shouldn’t have been doing,” Matheny said.

Pearce was learning how to make the cannon based on YouTube videos.

“It takes a lot more knowledge and skills that aren’t shown in the video, and it leaves people in danger of doing things like this,” Theis said.

The Sheriff’s Office bomb technicians, which Theis supervises, responded to the scene, found no other dangerous devices and determined that no crime was associated with the incident.

Officers have finished investigating and are working with the Campbell County School District on an additional response to the accident, Matheny said.

(4) comments


It is very unfortunate that this youngster was killed actually trying to do something other than vegetate in his parents basement playing video games. A nipper like this who works at creating real things instead of fantasy stuff is what we nee more of in society. The schools..at least here in the US...have been eliminating shop class and other practical training for the last 40 years.

Very sad he died.


Any cannon that uses gun powder or black powder can be very dangerous. Better to make a potato cannon. All you need is a 2" by 4 foot plastic pipe, a potato, and some rubbing alcohol. A fuse would be nice also.


I remember making cannons as a kid with 1" steel pipes and a Chinese firecracker. Insert marble and fired that beast. Great fun. Potentially dangerous, but kids today are in a bubble and don't really experience reality, unless you consider video games and facebook real.


It's a shame that schools don't do a better job of teaching physics. Steel pipe used for water lines is not remotely thick enough to sustain the intense pressure of gun powder. Look at any real cannon and the walls of the barrel are a minimum of 3 inches thick. I'd also question why the parents were not more aware of what was going on, or if they were, why didn't they intervene.

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