August 28, 2005

Human Cannonball Fired Across U.S. Border

TIJUANA, Mexico -- David Smith Sr., who already holds a world record for the longest distance traveled by a human fired from a cannon, added to his list of cannonball coups Saturday by shooting across the U.S-Mexico border.

The feat was the brainchild of Venezuelan artist Javier Tellez and is part of a series of public art projects in the two border cities.

Smith climbed into the barrel of the cannon Saturday afternoon and flashed his U.S. passport as about 600 people applauded.

He took flight from a popular beach in Tijuana, Mexico and soared about 150 feet over a line of black metal poles about 20 feet high and spaced six inches apart. He landed uninjured in a net in Border Field State Park in San Diego with U.S. Border Patrol agents and an ambulance waiting nearby.

David Smith Jr., also an accomplished human cannonball, said his father's flight was the first across a border by way of cannon.

Tellez organized the cannonball launch with psychiatric patients at the Baja California Mental Health Center in Mexicali, Mexico, as a therapeutic project. The event is part of an art series that started Saturday and will run through the fall, sponsored by inSite05, a binational arts partnership in the San Diego-Tijuana region.

Tellez called the project "living sculpture" and said it was about "dissolving borders" between the United States and Mexico and between mental health patients and the rest of the world.

"David Smith is a metaphor for flying over human borders, flying over the law, flying over everything that is established," he said.

Tellez, 36, and Smith Sr. worked closely on the backdrop, music, costumes and advertising for the project, "One Flew Over the Void." Tellez plans a documentary film about it.

Although it is against the law for anyone, including U.S. citizens, to enter the country outside an official port of entry, Smith Sr. wasn't crossing illegally. U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar made an exception for him, said Border Patrol spokesman Kurstan Rosberg.

Smith Jr., 28, said the family insisted on U.S. government approval.

"I had to have some kind of official OK high enough up to make sure he doesn't land in the U.S. and go to a federal penitentiary," he said.

Smith Sr., of Half Way, Mo., is listed in Guinness World Records for record distance for a human fired from a cannon. He flew 185 feet, 10 inches on May 29, 1998 in West Mifflin, Penn.

The Smith family has five cannonballs: father, son, two daughters and a cousin. Smith Sr. built seven cannons designed to fire humans, and his family operates five of them, traveling around the world to perform at events including parades and concerts, his son said.

"If one of the girls has a baby, they can't be a cannonball during that time," said Smith Jr.


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