UTICA, Minn. — An invitation to join in the fun led to tragedy on a Fillmore County farm Saturday night.
A bachelor-bachelorette party was in progress at the residence on the farm where Jeffrey Taylor, 47, of Utica kept some cattle. When Taylor and his sons arrived in the evening to tend the cattle, they were invited to stop by the party before leaving, Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen said.
As Taylor and his sons prepared to leave, some of the party-goers were shooting exploding targets with a high-powered rifle, Jensen said. Taylor joined a group of spectators standing behind the shooter. Just before 9 p.m. a shot exploded a target and Taylor immediately collapsed with a wound to the abdomen, Jensen said.
He was driven to a nearby location where the Rushford Ambulance and Mayo 1 helicopter attended to him. He was pronounced dead at that location.
An autopsy found the cause of death consistent with a shrapnel injury from the exploding target, Jensen said.
The explosive used in the target was Tannerite, Jensen said. Tannerite is a binary explosive — meaning two materials combined to react — used primarily as a target for firearms target practice. A exploding Tannerite target is intended to let a shooter know a hit has been scored without a walk downrange to see the target.
According to the company’s website, even when the materials are combined, Tannerite is “1,000 times as safe as black powder,” since it is not flammable, an explosion cannot be created by a burning fuse or electricity, and it requires the high-velocity impact delivered by a rifle bullet. A blow from a hammer, small-caliber rimfire or low-velocity pistol ammunition would not set off an explosion, according to the company.
Like black powder, it is a legal product. However, the company website strongly cautions against misuse.
Jensen said that in this case the Tannerite was “used with other materials” in a manner that was not included in the manufacturer’s recommendations. He said the individual who fired the shot that detonated the explosive “just happened to be the next in line to shoot,” and while alcohol was present at the party, “we don’t feel alcohol contributed to the result.”
Jenson said it was unclear how close the shooters and spectators were to the targets.
Jensen said that when the investigation is complete, the results will be forwarded to the Fillmore County Attorney’s office to determine if charges are warranted.
“It’s just tragic,” Jensen said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”