Parents of boy accidentally killed with homemade gun issue warning

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The parents of a 15-year-old boy accidentally killed with a homemade airgun have issued a warning to other families.

Daniel Cowan died in Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in October, 2012, a week after he was hit in the head by a missile fired from a friend’s airgun at a property in Heathcote Junction, central Victoria.

The projectile was made of a bicycle handle grip, wrapped in electrical tape and inserted into the gun, which was pumped full of air before being fired through a PVC pipe.

The Victorian Coroners Court today heard the accident happened when several boys were playing with the gun, at the property of a friend whose father had brought the weapon home from work.

The boys were unsupervised at the time.

The gun fired the projectile into Daniel’s head, causing extensive injuries.

Daniel’s parents were visibly upset throughout the inquest and his father, Darren Cowan, spoke outside.

“Daniel went to a neighbour’s place to hang with a few mates and never came home,” he said.

“We understand his death is an accident, and that no-one intended for this to happen. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve lost our precious boy.”

Homemade weapons ‘a risk’

Mr Cowan said his son’s death was preventable.

“We’re determined to prevent this from ever happening again and happening to another family, and that’s why we’re speaking out today,” he said.

“They (airguns) are no different to giving the kids a shotgun to play with.”

“It beggars belief the boys had access to the weapon to play with on the day.”

Mr Cowan said a surgeon described his son’s injuries as akin to something he would expect to see in a war zone.

He said Daniel had also left behind two brothers, including a twin, Thomas.

“Nothing could bring Daniel back, but please be warned of the serious risk of having any type of weapon like this around the house, or for the kids to play with,” Mr Cowan said.

“I hope no-one has to experience what we have had to experience.”

Airguns are lethal weapons: coroner

Coroner John Olle described homemade airguns as “lethal weapons”.

“This case highlights the dangers of how young adolescents using homemade air guns for entertainment can lead to significant misadventure, which in this case has resulted in the tragic loss of a young man,” he said.

“This is why firearms laws are in force; to ensure that individuals using firearms hold a valid licence.”

The father of the boy with the airgun pleaded guilty earlier this year to possessing an unregistered firearm.

It is not yet known if the Cowan family plan to take further legal action.

“I think the other message to take away from this case is that parents have responsibility for supervising their children,” said the family’s lawyer, Barrie Woollacott.

“Boys will be boys, but parents need to be parents.”