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Fire from tall ship's cannon injures woman in Dana Point

September 13, 2012 |  7:55 am

Bill of Rights schooner

A showy reenactment of a cannon fight between schooners off the coast of Dana Point produced some all-too-real wounds for one participant over the weekend.

After the cannon aboard the tall ship Amazing Grace rumbled, Donna Reed felt stinging pain in her legs.

"It was like a scene from 'The Exorcist,' " said Reed, her wounds still sore days later. "I started to bleed in several different areas."

She had been shot.

The Saturday evening mock cannon fight was meant to simulate the spectacle of a historic battle on the high seas. This year, however, a crew member inadvertently veered from the script, which called for the Amazing Grace to fire blanks at the schooner Bill of Rights.

Law enforcement officials said the crew member mistakenly grabbed a box of buckshot ammunition after the Amazing Grace ran out of blanks. (The boxes apparently look similar, authorities said.)

The spray of pellets left two people aboard the Bill of Rights injured and stunned.

"The plan is never to shoot live ammunition," said Bentley Cavazzi, chief operations officer for the Ocean Institute, which has hosted the festival in Dana Point Harbor for 28 years.

Reed said she didn't know what hit her. It turned out to be five shotgun pellets that peppered her lower body, some of which remain lodged in her legs, several inches deep.

"It was painful," said the 32-year-old deckhand, "but I was walking afterward."


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Photo: The schooner Bill of Rights, center, seen in 2002, was mistakenly fired on with live ammunition recently during a mock duel off Dana Point as part of the Ocean Institute's annual tall ships festival. Credit: Los Angeles Times