- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A teenager was killed during a rural town’s New Year’s tradition of firing vintage muskets into the air, but Cherryville officials declared Monday that the ritual would continue to be celebrated.

During the revelry early Saturday, a rifle exploded and pieces of the barrel struck Matthew K. Shook, 18, in the side of the head.

“There’s no effort in place here to end the practice,” Mayor Bob Austell said. “This is something that’s been going on in Cherryville for more than 200 years.”

Mr. Austell conceded, however, that it was time to review safety standards for the “New Year’s Shoot” in the town, home to 5,400 about 40 miles west of Charlotte.

The tradition has been traced to the mid-1700s, when German settlers would fire their weapons as a kind of good-luck wish. In Cherryville’s celebration, groups of shooters visit dozens of homes and fire black powder from their muskets at every stop.

Mr. Shook was outside a party in the nearby town of Dallas when a black-powder rifle, instead of firing, exploded in his hands, police said. His death was ruled an accident.

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