Student Dies After Model Rocket Explosion

An 18-year-old Thousand Oaks student is dead and his friend remains hospitalized in critical condition after their propane-propelled test model rocket exploded Monday evening in Thousand Oaks, California.

model rocket explosion

The two high school students were testing a small propane cylinder as a prototype motor on the handball courts of Madrona Elementary School when the incident occurred. The senior victim, Bernard Moon, and his friend were experimenting for an upcoming school project by trying to attach the prototype rocket motor to a skateboard in attempts to propel it forward.

According to witnesses, something went wrong while Moon was holding the propane cylinder. The cylinder exploded in the victim’s hands with what bystanders say sounded like a sonic boom.

A nearby scout leader and a local nurse were first on the scene to treat the teens. Emergency responders arrived shortly after and rushed them to the hospital, while Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters cleared the scene. Moon died in the hospital as a result of his injuries, while the 17-year-old is listed as being in stable condition.

Moon was considered a smart student and aspired to one day become an electrical engineer before this deadly model rocket mishap occurred.

Model rocket deaths are rare, but still happen enough to cause concern. Less than six months before Moon’s death, a Boy Scout official, Michael Bentley, 50, of San Bernardino County was accidentally killed with a homemade rocket struck him in his face on its descent.

Witnesses stated that the homemade rocket was about two to three feet long and mostly made out of cardboard material and was launched at the annual Boy Scouts of America “Rocket Rave” event. The launch was initially successful, but Bentley lost sight of the direction of the rocket’s travel and was looking upwards when the equipment came swiftly down, striking him in the face.

Bentley was flown by helicopter to the nearby Palm Springs’s Desert Regional Medical Center where he unfortunately succumbed to his injuries.

In the most recent California model rocket deaths, however, it should be noted that the use of propane as a propellant is a violation of the National Association of Rocketry Model Rocket Safety Code due to the hazards inherent with the gas.

In fact, just earlier this year, a Redwood City mobile home was severely damaged and its resident sent to the hospital with burns to his face and body when a propane stove he was lighting exploded.


If you have been injured due to negligence and are in need of a personal injury lawyer in Torrance or Los Angeles, please contact the Booth & Koskoff office nearest you for a free personal injury case evaluation.