ARNOLD, Mo. — Ronnie G. Sanders wanted his friend to hear the deafening boom of his homemade cannon.
He had already ignited it for one friend several times on New Year's Eve, his mother said. But when another buddy came by his Arnold home Thursday to hear the bang, the cannon itself exploded and shot shrapnel straight into his neck.
The blast killed him as he stood near a metal barn on his property.
“No one ever expected it to happen,” his mother, Connie Sanders, of Otto, Mo., said Friday. “They shot it off five or six times on New Year's Eve with no problems.”
She said his sons, Micah, 11, and Lucas, 6, were at their father's side when he was hit; nobody else was hurt.
It happened about 4 p.m. in the 2000 block of Jean Drive, said Jefferson County sheriff's Capt. Ron Arnhart.
The cannon had an attached wick and was made of metal pipe packed with black powder, Arnhart said.
Connie Sanders said she believes this week's freezing temperatures made the pipe brittle. “It wasn't anything sophisticated,” Connie Sanders said. “He was just trying to show his friends.”
She said she was inside the house when she heard the explosion.
Sanders was an independent welder who worked on steam turbines at power plants in the area, his mother said. He attended Fox Senior High School in Arnold and earned a degree from a technical school before starting work as a welder. He was not married and had custody of his sons.
“He was a fun-loving, caring man,” she said. “He was always looking for excitement.”
Sanders had been at the center of a strange episode in the news in March in Page, Ariz. Police there detained Sanders at a municipal airport after security stopped him for trying to board a plane with several wires hanging out of a computer, said Capt. Ray Varner of the Page Police Department.
Varner said TSA screeners called police because Sanders was intoxicated and volunteered to them that his laptop wasn't a bomb.
“You know what happens when you say that word” at an airport, Varner said.
The airport was closed for several hours as bomb squad specialists investigated Sanders' luggage and deemed it safe.