During an inquest, it was revealed that a college student named Kostydin Yankov lost his life in a strange incident where he was launched over 30 meters in the air by a human catapult. While part of the Oxford Stunt Factory, Yankov, a 19-year-old biochemistry student from Bulgaria, sustained multiple injuries after missing a safety net when propelled from a trebuchet catapult styled after a medieval weapon. In November 2002, the stunt club visited the Middlemoor Water Park near Bridgwater, Somerset, where the incident occurred.
Five members of the Oxford Stunt Factory paid the £40 per launch cost to use the trebuchet that Wad used to fire plague-ridden corpses and various missiles over castle ramparts. The two catapult designers, Richard Wicks, and David Aitkenhead created a modern version of the Trebuchet with human shots instead of missiles. They had already tested the contraption alongside their human resource manager, Stella Young, who sustained injuries in 2000 when testing a prototype of the trebuchet.
Stella Young was responsible for weighing Yankov before the jump and warning him about the dangers of using the trebuchet. She told the court how she had broken her pelvis in three places after using a prototype of the trebuchet that same year. The Oxford Stunt Factory had already voiced their concerns regarding the safety of the trebuchet. Oliver Nelkin, who was scheduled for a jump after Yankov, commented that jumpers were landing on the front edge of the safety net 10m x 20m instead of the middle, which was the intended landing area.
Prior to Yankov’s jump, the weights that control the jump’s length were adjusted on the trebuchet, and all safety checks were done. Yankov missed the safety net for reasons the jury could not determine, and he died from his injuries at Bristol’s Frenchay Hospital. The adventure designers, Wicks and Aitkenhead in charge of the trebuchet were acquitted of manslaughter charges in 2020.