A man expecting his first child was killed on Sunday and his brother was injured when a device they were preparing for a sex reveal party exploded in a Catskills garage in New York City, authorities said.
New York State Police said soldiers responded to a report of an explosion at a house in the city of Liberty, New York, just before noon. Christopher Pekny, 28, has died and his brother Michael Pekny, 27, was injured, officials said.
What triggered the explosion has remained under investigation, said state police spokesperson Private Steven Nevel. The device consisted of a sort of pipe intended for use at a sex disclosure party, but the nature of its explosive material was not yet known, he said.
Peter Pekny Jr., 34, the eldest of the brothers, called what happened “the scariest accident I ever imagined”, although he is not sure what triggered it. explosion, he said in a telephone interview on Monday.
He said his brother Michael was in stable condition at a hospital in Middletown, New York, and doctors were able to reconstruct a damaged knee.
Explosive devices used in gender revealing events have been linked to at least two deaths since 2019 and two major forest fires. Parties are a popular way for couples to announce pregnancy news on Facebook and Instagram.
A 26-year-old man died in Michigan this month after being struck by shrapnel from a “small gun-type device” that exploded when fired to celebrate a baby shower, the authorities said.
Peter Pekny said his brothers were “very mechanically inclined” and “could fix and do anything”.
He described Christopher as a gifted mechanic who enjoyed rebuilding engines and taking cars apart and reassembling them. Christopher and Michael had repaired a rental home in Ferndale, a hamlet in the city of Liberty, about 110 miles northwest of New York City, their brother said.
Mr Pekny said Christopher earned the nickname Frankenstein from his job at Liberty Concrete, where he worked as a bricklayer.
“What he picked up and moved would have taken three people,” he said. “I saw him pick up engine blocks because they were on the way.”
He said Christopher Pekny was 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 250 pounds. When he played football in high school, he once hit another player so hard that he snapped the player’s helmet in half, he recalls.
“He had the hardest head I have ever seen,” he says.
Christopher Pekny learned just before Christmas that his girlfriend was pregnant and that they were having a boy, Peter Pekny said.
Mr Pekny said he got a call from family members on Sunday – the day of the party – while in Florida, New York, about 45 miles away. He initially thought the call was a trick to get him to the party early, but when he heard the news he raced all the way to Liberty on Route 17, sometimes at over 100 mph. .
He said he was jumped by a state soldier, who stopped him and started yelling at him. Mr. Pekny said he explained why he was speeding, and after the soldier went to his patrol car and checked the radio to verify his history, he returned to Mr. Pekny’s van.
He said the soldier told him, “You have to go” and did not give him a ticket. “The color has completely disappeared from his face,” Mr. Pekny said of the soldier. “He looked like he had seen two ghosts.”
As boys, Michael and Christopher were inseparable and remained so until adulthood. “If you could think of two people who were the two closest people – magnify that tenfold,” Mr Pekny said.
Growing up, Mr Pekny said, he was tough on his younger brothers and did not share their bond. That has started to change recently, he said, and they are getting closer.
“He was really looking forward to starting a family,” he said of Christopher. “He was really starting to settle in and grow.
The Pekny family owns the Robin Hood Diner, a mainstay of Livingston Manor, an area of the Catskills famous for its trout fishing.
Christopher, who would have turned 29 on Tuesday, was waiting for tables there and running the bar. He wished his father a good night on Saturday, telling him he would see him in the morning, Mr Pekny said.
A Facebook post on the dinner page said, “We appreciate the overwhelming display of love and support you have all shown. The Robin des Bois will be closed in the near future. “