Woman Says She Was Burned by a Giant Rocket
SAN DIEGO (CN) - A woman was burned by a 300-pound, 18-foot-tall rocket at an amateur rocket festival in the desert, she claims in Superior Court.
Kairee Goodin attended the annual "Large and Dangerous Rocket Ships" event in California's Mojave Desert in June 2010. She say in her complaint that the six-day festival is dedicated to the "preparation, launching and recovery of hundreds of high-powered amateur rockets." More than 2,000 spectators and participants attended the rocket launches in "a remote parcel of the Lucerne Dry Lake Bed," about 30 miles outside of Barstow.
The event is staged by the defendant Tripoli Rocketry Association and sponsored by the co-defendant Rocket Organization of California.
Goodin claims that unbeknownst to her, she was driven into the middle of an active launch site on the back of an ATV driven by her friend Graham Orr. She says there were inadequate signs and barriers in and around the launch zone. Orr is not a party to the complaint.
Goodin says that Orr went to talk to members of Tripoli-San Diego, a local chapter of Tripoli Rocketry and the third and final defendant. They were preparing to launch a rocket modeled after NASA's Delta 2.
Goodin says their rocket was 18 feet tall and weighed 300 pounds. She says the rocket had five engines capable of producing a combined thrust of 25,000 to 30,000 newtons.
By comparison, each of the NASA Space Shuttle's two solid rocket boosters produced 12.5 million newtons of thrust at liftoff.
Goodin says that as she sat on the ATV 30 to 40 feet from the rocket, the Tripoli-San Diego group lowered the rocket from its vertical launch position to a more horizontal orientation. This was done "to allow the rocket to be placed lower on the launch rod so that the rocket would 'make a bigger crater' during takeoff," Goodin says in her complaint.
The rocket ignited 20 to 30 seconds later, Goodin says, horizontally, toward her right side.
"The blast from the heated chemicals and/or gases of the high-power amateur rocket, along with the debris from the disintegrating rocket caused plaintiff Kairee Goodin to suffer numerous injuries," the complaint states.
Goodin says she suffered first- and second-degree burns to 5 percent of her body, and lacerations to her thighs and legs from shrapnel and flying debris. The blast also injured several other bystanders, she says.
Due to the remoteness of the launch pad, 15 minutes passed before someone drove her for medical attention - to what Goodin calls the event's "woefully inadequate first aid station."
She claims that there, "proper medical treatment could not be administered. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that at all times herein mentioned, the [event's] first aid station was not equipped to deal with the seriousness and severity of the injuries suffered by plaintiff Kairee Goodin."
Fortunately for Goodin, an ambulance crew saw the rocket misfire from the highway and arrived to provide medical assistance.
However, "due to the nature of her injuries, plaintiff's clothes were stripped off and/or cut away to assess and treat her burns," Goodin says in the complaint.
"Onlookers who had either seen or heard about the accident began to gather around plaintiff Kairee Goodin. Defendants and each of them failed to take any steps to prevent onlookers from gazing, gawking and taking photographs of the injured plaintiff Kairee Goodin. Plaintiff Kairee Goodin stood humiliated in nothing but her undergarments."
Goodin was taken by helicopter to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, more than 75 miles away. She seeks damages for strict liability, negligence and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Stuart Fraenkel and Andrew Ciganek of the Los Angeles firm Kreindler and Kreindler.