If it hadn't been real, the sight of an 11-year-old boy flying 40 feet into the air clinging to an inflatable slide might have seemed like a whimsical scene from the movie "Up." And after a few terrifying moments, it did have a happy ending; the Ohio boy landed safely thanks to some quick-thinking bystanders.
The unintended balloon flight highlights the dangers of inflatable amusements, which are subject to relatively few safety rules and regulations. Popular at kids' backyard birthday parties, local carnivals and other attractions, the inflatables come in all shapes and sizes with names like moonwalker and bounce house. They're big and bouncy and irresistible to kids.
Unfortunately, the fun can end quickly. Kids pile on top of other kids, breaking bones, chipping teeth or worse, or when the structures deflate unexpectedly, trapping children inside. In the case of the Ohio boy in June, a gust of wind caught the poorly anchored slide and lifted it into air with the child still aboard. As photos from the Middletown Journal show, he was brought to safety when some adults punctured the inflatable and it returned to earth. Other children suffered bumps and scrapes when the ride flipped several times.
In 2007, a 3-year-old died when he was crushed by two adults. Last fall, a young girl died after she broke her neck doing somersaults down an inflatable ride in Festus, MO, according to the Witchita Eagle. And last month, a 17-year-old Texas boy attempted a back flip on an inflatable ride, fell on his neck, and is now partially paralyzed.
Such accidents are on the rise as the popularity of inflatables grows, according to the Web site, Ride Accidents.com, which tracks incidents. The newest numbers from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which were last updated in 2005, are sobering. The CPSC reported four fatalities in inflatable-related accidents from 2002 to 2005. In 2004, the most recent year for which we found complete data, inflatable rides, such as inflatable slides and bouncers, accounted for an estimated 4,900 injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms, according to the agency. That was up sharply from 1997, when the CPSC estimated only 1,300 such injuries -- a whopping 277 percent increase in just eight years (a time in which inflatables grew in popularity).
In 2007, the CPSC issued one of its first recalls of inflatable amusement ride devices in several years: Some 2,600 bounce houses made by Sportcraft (see image above) were recalled after the company received a handful of reports of fans and the surrounding plastic breaking apart during use, causing the inflatables to lose air.
It's up to the states or local municipalities to regulate inflatables. Few have. One of the first states to get tough on inflatables was New Jersey, which requires inspections and mandates that inflatables meet wind-anchorage and combustibility requirements. ASTM International, a voluntary-standards development organization, has developed a standard for inflatables. While ASTM standards don't carry the weight of law, they may be referenced in laws or contracts.
Before letting your child use an inflatable at a carnival or festival, check with the operator to see if it is properly anchored and that users are supervised. If you are renting one for a backyard event, the state of Washington offers these safety tips:
- Limit the number of users on the device;
- Make sure the inflatable isn't overloaded or unstable;
- Securely anchor the inflatable to the ground with pegs;
- Place the blower so it can't accidentally be unplugged, causing the inflatable to collapse.
On most of these cases it seems it wasnt the ride itself but the lack of supervision and/or enforcing of rules. You wouldn't do somersaults on a normal slide why would you do it on one of these things. Adults shouldn't be in there with children and poorly anchored doesn't mean the ride itself was poor just the person who set it up. Though the recall was a good thing if parts are breaking on a product and endangering people then it should be recalled and fixed.
Ohio has one of the best regulatory pratices for inflatables. They are liscenced and inspected by the Ohio Amusement Ride Safety division just like a mechicanical ride and are under the same rules and regulations. All owners of inflates must carry the required insurance and must have certified and trained operators on duty during operational hours.All inflates must also carry the required paper work.Failure to compily results in fines.
Jupiter jumps/moonbounces should never have any one over the age of 14 in it. All inflatables should only be for the use of childeren only (18yrs or less). Inflatables are not designed for adults there intended use was and is for childeren. A person larger than 250# shouldn't be allowed on an inflatable. If inflatable manufactures would put an age and height limit on the inflatable signs less childeren would be hurt. All companies should send one helper with every inflatable when renting an inflatable. The renter can be the operator but the helper can notify you if it is being miss used or proper proceedures is not being done. (hire teenagers they make good helpers) (note no teen sould be an operator the renter would provide an operator).
When you leave an inflatable with a renter they do not relize what can happen so they don't suppervise as they should but if you leave a helper they could step in and stop the use of the inflatable.
My son's 10th birthday was held last year at Jimmy's Mad Mad Whirled in Marietta, Georgia. He had a laser tag party, but at the end the boys all went to play on the giant slides. The boys were well-behaved and were not pushing or shoving. One bigger, taller boy was jumping behind a much smaller boy and the smaller one, displaced by the weight flew into the air, off of the slide and landed on the side of the balloon slide out of the parents' viewing range. I ran over to the child and found him laying face down ON CONCRETE! The areas within the parents' viewing area had thin carpeting, but once I walked around and saw the sides and back, there was stone-cold concrete. I was horrified. What miserly, callous, moron would have huge balloon slides on concrete? I called for help. No one who worked there had any first aid training or even a first aid kit! The child could not move. I called his mother and she ran over and checked him out. She did not feel that calling 911 was necessary. He lay there for some time, and by the grace of G-d, he walked away with only minor bruises despite the fact that the fall was at least 15 feet. It was one of the most terrifying moments ever. As the mom of the birthday child, I was devastated and felt responsible to do what I could to make sure this never happened again. The owner of the place was not present. Not only that, he never bothered to follow-up with a call to me or the parents of the injured child. My concerns and complaints to him, the BBB and other agencies to find out if Georgia had any regulations regarding this equipment were ignored until I contacted the media. Then the owner responded by blaming me and the children, taking no responsibility whatsoever for his blatant lack of protection of the children in his establishment or for having no one trained in first aid - or even an ice pack available! Worried about the safety of the children, I pressed the issue until he agreed to take safety measures and have his staff trained in first aid. At this point in time, the slides have been dismantled. Nevertheless, I would be concerned about the safety of the other equipment like the laser tag system and the whirlyball cars. Unfortunately, Georgia laws generally side with big business and not with the rights of its individual citizens, so there was nothing else to be done, but spread the word amongst the other families in our area.
There are facilities who take great care to insure the safety of their patrons - like Monkey Joe's. Children will fall from the top of these balloon slides and the construction of the balloons must be such that the fall will not place the child outside of the structure onto a hard surface.
on sept 16th, at the Oakland Art and Soul Festival (oakland california), my daughter was among 4-5 kids playing in a bouncy house. suddenly the fan/pump stopped and the stucture started to deflate. most of the kids were in an area that was not collapsing as fast and was right by the entrance, but one little girl was deep inside and the house came down on her. i and another parent were pulling at the structure to make a way for her to get out. the walls of these infatables are much thicker and heavier than they look! the girl did get out, but she was terrified. she'll probably have a lifelong fear of bouncy houses. the teenage attendant did almost nothing the whole time, sort of tried to help us pull the structure, seeming rather unconcerned and helpless. he seemed to think nothing was really wrong and had no clue what to do. after a few minutes the pump started again and the house reinflated. my fearless daughter wanted to go right back in. i let her. the attendant remarked that it had happened several times before. another, slightly older attendant (supervisor?) was there then and i asked him what had happened. he said that it was not uncommon, that the pump had recently been serviced and whenever that happens (new fluids etc...) they have problems with it for a couple weeks (and after that 'breaking in' period it's fine). he seemed sure that it was the pump, not the generator which had failed the previous day according to my husband (apparently that was not that unusual either). he claimed that their company, Fun and Games Rentals, had one of the "highest safety ratings in the business" and that their personnel were trained to "jump right in" and handle the situation when problems like that occurred. i should have told him i differed with that assessment, having observed the young man looking bewildered and unconcerned when the structure started to collapse. after he left another mother came to ask the attendant if there was going to be any report of the incident and if the ride might not be safe. he basically said not really, and she told him what she thought about that. (i don't know if she was the mother of the girl that got caught inside or not) she did say that she wasn't holding him responsible, he obviously was not personally at fault, but i'm sure she complained to several higher authorities. i am now going to find out how to report this incident to the company and any appropriate agency, after reading how common these types of accidents are.
Like most stories about accidents on inflatable structures in my opinion more than 90% of the accidents that happen are operator error. Some states have no rules and/or regulations in place and this is why some party rental companies dont carry liability insurance. There state can allow them to do business recklessly! When you see a really cheap rate out there question it because they are cutting costs somewhere. Insurance premiums are through the roof and gas prices are soaring. How can you afford to deliver a bouncer for $49 all day? How do you pay to train employees at this rate? and paying minimum wage to someone who can care less just to stand there listening to their iphone or talking on the phone doesn't help either. Lets face it folks at the end of the day your paying for service not just and inflatable! At Rideaccidents.com you can read about tons of accident related injuries due to operator error. Be a smart consumer when pricing around and don't always look for the cheapest rates.
It is essential that all bouncer users are supervised at ALL times by a responsible adult or parent to ensure that users stay off the walls. The inflatable bouncer should also not exceed the maximum number of children allowed. Practice all safety measures before deciding to purchase or rent an inflatable bouncer or toy for your kids' events.