Home U.S Devonport jumping castle tragedy: Inside the litany of previous tragedies that have...

Devonport jumping castle tragedy: Inside the litany of previous tragedies that have claimed lives

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It’s the fairground and backyard party favourite that children flock towards at every event and celebration, providing hours of bouncy fun.

But today, many Australian parents are thinking twice about letting their children get on a jumping castle again after a freak accident tragically claimed the lives of five children in Devonport in Tasmania’s north-west on Thursday.

Year six students Zane and Addison were the first of the victims to be identified from the tragedy, which happened at a primary school graduation celebration.

Of the four children who remain in hospital, three are critical after a wind gust blew a jumping castle about 10 metres into the air.

It’s not the first time an airborne jumping or ‘bouncy’ castle has tragically claimed young lives or caused serious injury, including at least three other non-fatal accidents in the last five years in Australia alone.

Jumping castle and inflatable trampolines have also caused a litany of tragic deaths around the world, including the deaths of two girls in the UK, while two others were seriously injured in Russia earlier this year.

Experts told Daily Mail Australia that if the jumping castles are properly tied down, such accidents would be nearly impossible – with a landmark study warning they are a ’cause of preventable injuries’ in kids.

Year six student Zane (pictured) was one of five pupils killed when a wind gust blew a jumping castle about 10 metres into the air at his primary school graduation

Zane's Hillcrest Primary School classmate Addison (pictured) was also killed in the horrific school fun day tragedy

Year six students Zane (pictured, left) and Addison (right) were among of five pupils killed when a wind gust blew a jumping castle about 10 metres into the air at his primary school graduation

Zane (pictured) was enjoying his last day of primary school when his life was tragically cut short

Zane (pictured) was enjoying his last day of primary school when his life was tragically cut short

Police at the scene of a freak accident tragically claimed the lives of five children at a primary school in Devonport in Tasmania's north-west

Police at the scene of a freak accident tragically claimed the lives of five children at a primary school in Devonport in Tasmania’s north-west

HOW DANGEROUS ARE JUMPING CASTLES?

According to Safe Work Australia, inflatable amusement devices such as jumping castles can be a hazard if they are not set up and operated to relevant instructions.

It states devices must be evacuated when wind gusts exceed the manufacturer’s guidelines or when the wind gusts are over 40 km per hour. 

In 2018, a Spanish study published in the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics recorded a ‘rapid increase’ in injuries sustained while playing on inflatables such as jumping castles.

It reported the rate went up 15-fold from 1995 to 2010 and declared these ‘supposedly safe structures are likely unsafe,’ the report stated.

The report recommended adults supervision at all times, restricting use to children aged over-6 and that users be separated by age and height.

The study also suggests jumping castle not be in operation in adverse weather conditions such as high wind or in wet weather, describing the devices as a preventable cause of injury in children. 

 

DEATHS

In August 2016, a three-year-old Gold Coast boy tragically died while visiting at an inflatable park in south-east Queensland with his grandfather.

Hunter Young was running around the inflatables at the Toowoomba attraction when he fell onto a hard floor near a slide and suffered severe head injuries.

Seven-year-old Summer Grant also tragically died in April 2016 after strong winds blew a bouncy castle more than 150m across a park in Essex in the UK.

Summer was taking part in an Easter celebration at Harlow Town Park when a ‘strong gust of wind’ blew the jumping castle off its moorings, trapping her inside.

She was rushed to hospital where she later died from ‘multiple traumatic injuries to the head, neck and chest’.

Hillcrest Primary School graduate Zane (pictured right with dad Tim) was the first of the five victims to be identified

Hillcrest Primary School graduate Zane (pictured right with dad Tim) was the first of the five victims to be identified

Two girls aged three and four were seriously injured after a jumping castle (pictured) suddenly'exploded' and flew 7.62m into the air and landed near tram tracks earlier this year in Russia

Two girls aged three and four were seriously injured after a jumping castle (pictured) suddenly ‘exploded’ and flew 7.62m into the air and landed near tram tracks earlier this year in Russia 

UK youngster Summer Grant (pictured) tragically died in April 2016 after strong winds blew a bouncy castle more than 150m across a park

UK youngster Summer Grant (pictured) tragically died in April 2016 after strong winds blew a bouncy castle more than 150m across a park

Two fairground workers were later convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence and jailed.

It was the second bouncy castle disaster at Harlow Town Park in less than a year, after another collapsed with children inside in May 2015.

Three children were treated at the scene by paramedics.

In July 2018, three-year-old Ava-May Littleboy was playing on an inflatable trampoline on the beach at Gorleston, Norfolk when it exploded.

Ava was thrown into the air before landing on her face in the sand, suffering head injuries. She later died in hospital.

The deaths of Summer and Ava-May within two years sparked a government crackdown on the safety of jumping castles and renewed focus on their safety. 

In 2019, two children died when a jumping castle at a fair in China was flung into air by a dust devil. Another 22 people were injured, some critically.

Three years earlier, one child died and around 40 more have been injured after a bouncy castle was swept up by a gust of wind in China’s Henan province.

In 2015, a girl from Guangxi province died from her injuries after the bouncy castle she was playing on flew away after a gust of wind.

Twelve months earlier in 2014, a boy was also killed after the bouncy castle located in an outdoor mall in Jinan blew away.

Four children were injured when a jumping castle became airborne and flipped due to strong  winds at a store grand opening in Camden in October 2019

Four children were injured when a jumping castle became airborne and flipped due to strong  winds at a store grand opening in Camden in October 2019

SERIOUS INJURIES

Thursday’s tragedy in Tasmania comes a year after two children playing on a jumping castle at a birthday party were swept up by a ‘random’ wind gust in regional NSW. 

The inflatable castle was lifted about seven metres into the air during a family gathering in the Riverina town of Tabbita, north of Griffith.

Two 10-year-olds were airlifted to hospital suffering from leg and arm injuries and neck pain with both undergoing surgery.

Another four children were injured when a jumping castle flipped due to strong winds at the grand opening of a fruit shop in Sydney’s south-west two years ago.

The children fell nearly eight metres to the ground after the jumping castle became airborne at the grand opening of Camden Fruit Barn in October 2019.

Two children were airlifted to hospital after a jumping castle was lifted about seven metres into the air during a family gathering in the NSW Riverina town of Tabbita, north of Griffith.

 Two children were airlifted to hospital after a jumping castle was lifted about seven metres into the air during a family gathering in the NSW Riverina town of Tabbita, north of Griffith.

Three of the four children were taken to hospital with various injuries.

Store owners Kevin and Teresa Mamone took to Facebook afterwards to apologise for the mishap.

‘We would like to give our sincere apologies to the family whose children were involved in today’s [jumping] castle accident,’ they said.

‘Us as parents are absolutely heartbroken by this tragedy and we advise we have been in touch with the family and will endeavour to give them our 100 per cent support wherever needed.’

In February 2016, a toddler was knocked unconscious after she fell up to 8m from an airborne bouncy castle at a football club in Brisbane’s south.

Three-year-old Ava-May Littleboy (pictured) was killed when the inflatable trampoline she was playing on become airborne at a beach in Norfolk, England in 2018

Three-year-old Ava-May Littleboy (pictured) was killed when the inflatable trampoline she was playing on become airborne at a beach in Norfolk, England in 2018

Earlier this year in Russia, two little girls aged three and four were seriously injured after a bouncy castle suddenly ‘exploded’ and flew 7.62m into the air, throwing them over a metal fence and on to tram tracks. 

The three-year-old suffered concussion and a spinal fracture while the other youngster sustained a skull fracture and wounds to her lungs and stomach after she was thrown nearly 15ft from the bouncy castle.

Locals reported ‘some of the ropes were not secured… and in violation of safety requirements, the bouncy castle had been tied to the fence’.

Another witness claimed the bouncy castle had no protective underlay, and was rubbing against the tarmac, possibly causing the burst.

JUMPING CASTLES: THE STATS 

In 2012, a Monash University Injury Research Unit released a report which found that 784 emergency department presentations in Victoria for injuries in children aged 0-14 were related to ‘jumping castles’ between 2000-2010.

Eleven per cent required hospital admission. 

Across the pond, 446 members of the public and 54 workers were injured in jumping castle related incidents in 2015-16, according to UK figures.

Another 430 visitors and 56 workers were injured the following year, in addition to And last year the figures were 369 and 61 respectively. 

According to Safe Work Australia, inflatable amusement devices such as jumping castles can be a hazard if they are not set up and operated to relevant instructions.

It states devices must be evacuated when wind gusts exceed the manufacturer’s guidelines or when the wind gusts are over 40 km per hour. 

A shrine (pictured) was set up at Harlow Town Park in Essex following the tragic death of Summer Grant in 2016

A shrine (pictured) was set up at Harlow Town Park in Essex following the tragic death of Summer Grant in 2016

In 2018, a Spanish study published in the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics recorded a ‘rapid increase’ in injuries sustained while playing on inflatables such as jumping castles.

It reported the rate went up 15-fold from 1995 to 2010 and declared these ‘supposedly safe structures are likely unsafe,’ the report stated.

The report recommended adults supervision at all times, restricting use to children aged over-6 and that users be separated by age and height.

The study also suggests jumping castle not be in operation in adverse weather conditions such as high wind or in wet weather, describing the devices as a preventable cause of injury in children. 

‘Ensuring that parents are aware of the potential risks, improving surveillance of the injuries, developing national safety guidelines, especially with regards to age, where an age limit should be set to over six years old, and separating children according to size and age, as well as improving bouncer designs, are the first steps to prevent accidents from happening,’ the study concludes.

‘Further investigation is needed to define additional preventive and safety guidelines and to characterize the full scope of injuries related to inflatable bounce use, including soft-tissue injuries.’

A growing shrine has started building at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport (pictured on Thursday) in the wake of the tragedy

A growing shrine has started building at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport (pictured on Thursday) in the wake of the tragedy

Jumping castle safety tips 

To minimise the risk of injury, supervise children closely at all times while they are on a jumping castle. 

• Never allow older children to jump at the same time as younger children. • Restrict the number of children allowed on at the same time to collisions. 

• Do not use the castle if it is not fully inflated. 

• Make sure the device is anchored securely and there are no sharp objects in the vicinity. 

• Check the jumping castle for any wear and tear that could cause it to deflate. 

• Use safely mats at the entrance/exit and avoid jumping on wet or windy days. 

• When hiring a castle, ensure the operators are experienced with setting up the equipment and that it conforms to the Australian standard

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