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Bouncy Castle Dangers

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A child's death tragically reminds us of the hazards of these inflatables.

These days, it seems like nine out of 10 birthday parties has one: Those larger-than-life inflatable bouncies that kids (and sometimes adults) jump, leap, and tumble in. From a distance, these inflatables look like harmless fun. But for one 3-year-old, the bouncy castle recently became a deathtrap.

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According to Seattle TV station KIRO, Jacob Pierce died over the past weekend when two adults accidentally fell on him in the bouncy. Pierce suffered traumatic head injuries and passed away before he made it to the hospital. The inflatable indoor playground where this happened did not have a proper state permit to be operating and was ordered to shut down on Monday.

When we heard this tragic and horrific story in the office, we began to talk about bouncy dangers. One Mom here says her son suffered a concussion after a 12-year-old head-butted her 3-year-old in a bouncy castle. Another Mom said her daughter suffered a broken nose. We called Jared Costanza, founder of RideAccidents.com, a Web site that tracks amusement park accident reports, to see how dangerous these bouncy castles really are.

"Inflatables may appear to be quite tame compared to mechanical amusement rides, but statistics show that they are just as capable of causing injury and death. Most parents would be shocked to know how many children have been injured or killed as a result of inflatable slides and bouncy castles." The Consumer Product Safety Commission said nationally, inflatable injuries increased from 1,300 in 1997 to 4,900 in 2005—an astonishing 300 percent increase in just seven years. Costanza posts reports of injuries here.

Bouncy castles are particularly dangerous on windy days, when blowovers and collapses can cause catastrophic accidents. Adults are also at higher risk of spinal injuries or even paralysis due to bouncy injuries—three women broke their necks in a bouncy in one year alone. But bouncy castles are not the only inflatables that pose danger. Many injuries and fatalities occur on inflatable slides and inflatable rock-climbing walls, as well. There have been many reports of children and young people falling from the 12-foot structures and crashing into the pavement below.

What can parents do?

Here are some safety tips courtesy of Saferparks.org.

Watch the Weather: Avoid inflatables on windy days.
Hire Professional Supervision: If you are renting an inflatable jumper, ask about the operator's experience, safety record, and training requirements. Make sure the jumper is set up by trained professionals who are familiar with the equipment. Spend the extra money to have a trained operator supervising the jumper at all times.
Do your own safety check: Make sure the inflatable appears to be secured, and that the operator is attending to his/her job.
Always have a parent on duty: Supervise children closely. Limit the number of children allowed in an inflatable jumper. Never allow older kids to jump with younger children.

Costanza takes a more extreme stance: "Because this is not always enough to prevent accidents, and because accidents involving inflatables are relatively frequent and sometimes fatal, my advice to parents is to avoid inflatables altogether," he concludes.
Knowing this, we'll definitely think twice before allowing our kids to go in a bouncy again. What about you?


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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lori December 19, 2007, 11:17 AM

I HATE THESE THINGS. My kids always manage to get hurt. Inevitably right after I put my 2-yr-old in one, a few boisterous 14-year-olds come in and start jumping all over the place. I will not let my kid go in one of these after reading this article.

Anonymous December 19, 2007, 2:22 PM

SCARY. I feel awful for the family of the boy who died.

fred December 24, 2007, 10:15 AM

As an owner of an inflatable game rental company who has been watching this accident in WA from the net I feel like you are over reacting. Overall our industry is a safe industry, yes there are people who do not operate according to state regulations. And common sense tells any parent not to let their small child on a unit with a child 6-10 years older. The majority of companies are inspected and insured and properly secure and supervise their units. Our company puts thousands of children through our units each year and have only 1 injury in our history. As for ridesccidents.com if you read all the stories the majority of accidents are because of an error in supervision or set-up. These could have been avoided with proper supervision and installation. Also consider the number of accidents you here of compared to the number of units rented or used each year(our company has over a thousand units per year out, and we are small). So please do not attack an industry that is safe overall and extremely safe when properly regulated by state authorities and company operators. Your children are more likely to get hurt on the playground or playing sports. One note I mean no disrespect to anyone who has ever suffered a loss due to an inflatable accident. I just ask everyone keep everything in perspective.
thanks

tina December 28, 2007, 12:18 PM

if this artical makes 1 parent do a better job of supervision while her child is in one of these-then this article is not an overreaction-if my child gets on one of these it WILL NOT be with older kids-and ADULTS should not even be in there-except to get a kid out-

Brenda July 31, 2008, 5:39 PM

Well my friend’s kid fell out of a shopping cart and got a concussion - maybe those should be outlawed as well… and at a bowling party one day my son was headbutted by another kid and they both got hurt - so bowling is definately out! Let’s not forget stairs - my daughter slipped and bruised her tail bone once! And don’t underestimate new tennis shoes and the grab they have when you’re walking on carpet. Dangerous stuff here folks! I’m being facetious of course… For crying out loud people - your child has more potential to get harmed driving to the grocery store with you than in a bouncy. I say let ‘em have a little fun and don’t let big kids or adults on there. Easy cure.

J September 24, 2008, 12:13 PM

My child got her front permanent tooth hung in the window of an inflatable. She now has a permanent tooth missing and gum damage so this is a serious concern for parents.

Michelle October 8, 2008, 1:43 AM

Watch your kids and the odds are better that you won’t have a problem. We rent these at every birthday party we have and I just took my 2 kids to a jumpy place today and will do it again next tuesday as well. Anything can be dangerous if a child is not being supervised or the adults are drunk. Don’t outlaw bouncers at parties…outlaw drunken adults!!

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Linda Cresdee April 19, 2010, 5:20 AM

My name is Linda Cresdee, yesterday 18th April, 2010,I had a party at Freckles Fun Factory, Condon, QLD. The jumping castle at the centre deflated and eventually collapsed on 4 children or though there were other children on the castle who managed to escape the immediate danger. The 4 girls who didn’t became wedged between the jumping castle and the wall,with the jumping castle swallowing them in like quicksand in a matter of seconds. The parents of all the children were less than 5 mtres away from the jumping castle, we couldn’t hear them screaming because the music on the PA system was so loud and background noise of the other children, we couldn’t see them and didn’t see the fall and it was only by luck the three girls on the bottom managed to push one of the girls out for her to get help. When we realized they were in trouble we couldn’t get to them immediately either,there was only one way to get to them and the opening was hidden by the deflation.When we tried to get to the back of the jumping castle there was an obstruction blocking the path. It then took 4 woman (mothers) to peel back the jumping castle to free the girls one at a time,my daughter who was on the bottom of the pile had 3 other girls on top of her not to mention 40 or 50 kg of deflated jumping castle, by this time the girls were distraught,very frightened, screaming, sweating and having trouble breathing. No attempt was made by the staff at the centre (Freckles Fun Factory) to help us (the parents) or the children, the staff had no idea what to do in an emergency situation, nor did they have any sort of action plan for a situation like that, they made no apology to myself, the other parents or the children involved, nor did they speak to the children or parents to get detailed facts. I then had to ask the acting manage to fill out an incident report twice, before she decided to do it. When I confronted the staff members about whether they had first aide certificates one of them didn’t even know what it was. The Safety signage at the centre is unreadable,there was no attempt by staff to enter the play area the whole two hours we were there to check on the kids,even though they had camera monitors in the office and could see the parents scrambling for their children in the jumping castle area. This business is a major danger site, and a fatality in the making, it was only because of their ages that these girls are still alive, if 4 or 5 younger kids were in that same situation we would have lost them all, because they wouldn’t been able to scream out,or push one out to get help, and they all would have suffocated to death.

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Kathleen July 28, 2010, 8:05 PM

We used to live next door to a couple who throw annual July 4th parties (usually lasting 10 hours). They rent these bouncy castles every year for all the kiddies, place it close to our property line, aim the compressor toward OUR house and proceed to make as much damn noise as possible all day long. The kids aren’t supervised that much and the adults are drinking all day long. I was always amazed that no one got injured. After experiencing this inconsiderate behavior from these neighbors for several years, I think there should be a time limit on the amount of hours one can rent these things, especially in a subdivision where homes are so close together. To have to listen to screaming children and a noisy compressor aimed at our home for hours on end on a national holiday is just beyond the pale. I hate these inflatable bouncy castles and I despise people who have no consideration for anyone around them. Every July 4th our holiday was ruined with hours and hours of noise. We have moved away —thankfully— from those dolts. I hope we never have to endure noise like that again.

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