Investigators identify victim of Genesee County baby shower cannon explosion, feet away from blast

Published: Feb. 7, 2021 at 11:06 PM EST
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GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan State Police have identified the man who died after a freak accident involving a cannon fired at a baby shower.

The 26-year-old from Hartland was standing only feet away when the cannon’s fuse was lit. It was supposed to create a big flash, noise and smoke. Instead, it produced a lifetime of heartache for the victim’s family.

Balloons on the mailbox, an overturned cooler and a handmade chalkboard sign that read “baby shower” remained on display in Gaines Township on Sunday. Investigators said the celebration was derailed in an instant when a cannon, which was meant to signal the new arrival, exploded into the crowd instead.

“(It was) Similar to a signal cannon,” said Michigan State Police Lt. Liz Rich. “The cast material exploded and sent projectiles in all directions.”

Within 15 feet of the explosion, police identified Evan Thomas Silva as the victim. The 26-year-old from Hartland was killed when a piece of shrapnel struck his chest. Investigators say Silva, who is a friend of the family, was not the one who lit the fuse.

“The homeowner reported it had been shot several times,” Rich said. “If there aren’t regular inspections on a device like this, the cast material can wear away.”

Freak accidents tied to baby showers and gender reveals are on the rise as expecting parents up-the-ante. A blue smoke bomb sparked an Arizona wildfire several years ago and another last year in California, decimating in excess of 20-thousand acres.

A soon-to-be grandmother in Iowa was killed by shrapnel from a pipe bomb. In 2019, federal safety regulators confirmed a plane crashed after the pilot dumped hundreds of gallons of pink water.

“People are very creative in the gender reveals, but remember safety is always number one,” Rich said.

Firearms expert Phil Sheridan, who is CEO of Sheridan Arms in Saginaw Township, said everyone should take extreme precautions with guns and explosives “versus lighting the fuse and hoping for the best.”

Sheridan said any number of variables could have set the deadly chain reaction into motion.

“Simply loading the wrong type of gunpowder, loading too much gunpowder in there can take an open ended cannon and turn it into a bomb,” he said.

Combing through the scene of the explosion, investigators said pieces of the cannon pierced the garage where the party went on inside and three parked cars, finding a shard had been hurled as far as 25 feet away.

Michigan State Police have forwarded the case along to county prosecutors for further review.

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