Model rocketry has been around for about 58 years, commercially. It has had an amazing safety record. In all that time, due to the materials from which model rockets are made, and due to the NAR Model Rocket Safety Code, injuries from rocketry have been minimal.
When I was a kid, I visited my friend Scott. He had two kid-sized snow mobiles. We spent the day riding around on the huge patch of snowy ground next to his house. It was awesome!
Of course, snowmobiles are dangerous, and I could have been killed. Accidents and deaths are not uncommon in snowmobiling.
In the last 58 years, there has never been a recorded death due to any accident involving a model rocket.
Until this week.
Scout leader Michael Bentley, of California, was struck in the face by a model rocket. He lost sight of the rocket as it flew up, and when it came down, he was hit in the face. He was rushed to the hospital. But, despite surgery, he succumbed to his injuries, and passed away.
I have no doubt that he was operating safely, and that the rocket he built was made correctly. Speculation online has been... Well, one should not speculate based on one news report.
Reports are sketchy, but I want to stress that this was a freak accident. What other recreational activity can you name that has been carried on for nearly sixty years without a single freak accident leading to a death?
Knitting? Your grandma probably knits. But there are two freak accidental knitting deaths per year.
Model rocketry has had a record of 58 years with nobody dying on the field (some have said there have been a few deaths, from rocketeers trying to retrieve a rocket from power lines).
Rocketry is very safe. But sometimes, in life, accidents to happen. Even a paper rocket, with a plastic nose cone, which shouldn't do more than sting if it comes down hard, might do some real damage, once in 58 years.
This is freaking out the rocketry community a little bit. But this is a once in over half a century event.
Still, Mike Bentley was a standup scout leader, trying to teach some kids some cool stuff.
Please consider donating to his family's GoFundMe. It will help defray funeral costs and medical bills accrued.
For more on safety, please see the NAR Model Rocket Safety Code.