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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

3 Children Injured In Bounce House Accident

Two New York boys have been hospitalized and another girl was injured after a strong gust of wind sent their backyard bounce into the air while they were playing inside it.

The inflatable structure rose more than 50 feet in the air, though the kindergarten-aged children fell out of it, onto asphalt, when it was about 15 feet off the ground.

The bounce house was secured to the ground with plastic stakes, apparently no match for the winds.

Bounce houses are a popular staple at children’s birthday parties, outdoor and indoor festivals and smaller versions are now available for backyard bouncing.

Don Lehman has been covering the story for The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y., joins Here & Now’s Robin Young with details.

Guest

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW

Two boys, five and six, are now in stable condition after they were seriously hurt when they fell from an airborne bounce house up in Upstate New York. A 10-year-old girl also fell as her horrified family watched.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I just saw the bouncy house come up and then it went shooting over there and I didn't see my sister.

YOUNG: That sister though, a 10-year-old, later appeared with minor injuries after falling 15 or so feet out of the inflated house, which continued to soar like a runaway birthday balloon.

Don Lehman is a reporter for The Post-Star in Glens Falls, New York. And, Don, we've been hearing that's there was an incredible gust of wind. But the Weather Service discounts that. So what are people there telling you?

DON LEHMAN: Well, based on the witness accounts, it was pretty clear, you know,, the wind was responsible. I mean the weather service is - weather wind report was for an airport. I mean their closest reporting station was an airport about five miles away. You know, I live Kind of between the Airport and where this happened, and there were some strange kind of gusts of wind that day. And was very warm, it got to cover '80s, which is very strange for Upstate New York this time of year.

And, you know, between the cold - it's been a very cold spring - and that, you know, meteorologists said you get some weird wind conditions when that happens. But, you know, we've heard - we get a call from other meteorologist who said he thinks was something called the Dust Devil, and mini tornado. But the weather service Albany kind of this county, saying, no. they didn't really see any evidence of that.

YOUNG: Well, this kind of accident isn't unheard of. In 2011, 13 people were injured when three bounce houses went floating away on Long Island. But the number one question people have is: Are they supposed to be secured to the ground and was this one.

LEHMAN: This one, by all the witness account, was secured. The gentleman that owned it for about three years, he had, you know, by the witnesses watched him put the stakes in the ground. They're small, you know, small, probably a subjective term. But they're about six to eight inch plastic spikes - yellow plastic spikes, they put them in. the police have recovered three of them. They think the others were lost when this thing blew away. There's a wooded area there. They're looking for them.

You know, it was the indications where he did as he instructed to do by the manual.

YOUNG: Well, we understand the police are investigating. But they say there will be no criminal charges. And Little Tikes, which makes these inflatable houses says they're going to look into what happened. But in 2012, the Journal of Pediatrics published a study about bouncer-related injuries. You know, they say on average 31 kids are treated in ERs every day. In 2010, there were 11,000 injuries. This is only one more dangerous backyard device exists, and that's the trampoline.

So what are people there telling you about what, you know, somebody owned and everybody thought was a lot of fun?

LEHMAN: Well, you know, we've had - we've spoken to some of the, you know, I have businesses that rent these products commercially. And they say there's a big difference between the ones you see at events - the commercial ones which are regulated and insured and tested. And then you have these smaller ones that you can buy at any Target or Walmart.

A gentleman we spoke with at one of these businesses said that he thinks the spikes are not sufficient to hold it to the ground in these situations, which appears to be the case in this incident. He recommends getting some bigger spikes, you know, when you buy one of these things to ensure the safety.

YOUNG: Well, it's just stunning news. And, by the way, the pictures that everyone is seeing of this thing floating away after the children, you know, had this terrible fall. That picture, I understand, was taken by a girl there in Glens Falls. And the usage by the media outside of Glens Falls, you have to pay for it and it's going to go help these families?

LEHMAN: Yes, the girl who took the picture has agreed, you know, it was actually the daughter of an employee here - who happened to be there. She and the family agreed. We licensed the photo. The proceeds will all go to these boys' families.

YOUNG: Who are still very seriously injured.

LEHMAN: Yes, they are.

YOUNG: Don Lehman, yeah.

LEHMAN: OK.

YOUNG: Well, best to all of you at The Post-Star there in Glens Falls, New York. Thank you so much, Don.

LEHMAN: Thank you and I appreciate it. Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YOUNG: You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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