herald

Saturday 18 November 2017

Little Amy's tragic death sparks new bouncy castle safety alert

DANGER: Hospital expert warns on spate of child injuries

THE use of bouncy castles at children's parties has led to a stream of injuries among young people -- with many ending up in hospital.

Fergal Hickey, president of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, told the Herald that emergency departments have been continually dealing with children suffering from fractures and other injuries as the use of bouncy castles at parties has soared.

The news comes after the tragic death of eight-year-old Waterford girl Amy Byrne, who died after a freak fall from a bouncy castle while celebrating her first Holy Communion at the family home last Saturday.

Mr Hickey said such tragedies are rare, but the number of young people suffering injuries is rising.

"Bouncy castles have been on the go for the last 10 or 12 years and there has been a continuous stream of minor injuries from them," he said.

"We can say without fear of any contradiction that bouncy castles are associated with lots of injuries, particularly with the wrist, the elbow and collar bone.

"We have also seen more significant injuries but they have tended to occur when there is a mix of age groups together and when people are going too far."

The expert said parents should always remain vigilant if they decide to hire or buy a bouncy castle and should always keep children of the same age and size together.

Damages

"It's important that children of different sizes are kept apart because we do see circumstances where relatively small children have an older child or indeed an adult land on them and obviously they can sustain more significant injuries."

And he added: "We do see difficulties when adults who are perhaps at the same party as their children and have had a couple of glasses of wine and decide that they are going to go on the bouncy castle, and if they are on it at the same time as children bad things can happen."

The Herald has also learned that parents who hold parties in their homes could be liable for damages if people are injured on their property.

Personal injury legal sources have revealed how, if parents allow children onto a bouncy castle which they know to be unsafe, they can be held responsible and could be sued.

"If parents are aware of any problems (with the device), and didn't stop children from playing and there is an accident, they would be liable," a senior source said.

"And if the bouncy castle is owned by the people, not rented, there is an even greater duty on them to make sure the equipment is safe."

Suffered

In a landmark 2008 ruling in Britain, teenager Sam Harris, who suffered brain damage after he was kicked in the head on a bouncy castle when he was 11, won substantial six-figure damages against the couple who hired it for their child's birthday.

"Parents can be held liable, and while there haven't been many cases involving bouncy castles that I'm aware of in this jurisdiction, it certainly is possible and parents should be careful," the legal source added.

Amy Byrne's death is the latest in a series of reported bouncy castle fatalities in recent years. Eight-year-old Jessica Anne Gorostiaga died in Australia in March 2001 and 15 people were injured when a bouncy castle blew into the air.

And in 2003, five-year-old Jordan Dixon died after he fell from the inflatable castle in his parents' garden in Rotherham after copying older children who were climbing the walls.

hnews@herald.ie

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