A child’s bouncing session inside an inflatable playhouse last weekend took a frightening turn when a gust of wind blew the structure onto a busy Southern California highway, authorities said.
The near-tragedy happened just after 3 p.m. Saturday, when law enforcement agencies responded to reports of a traffic incident on U.S. Route 395 in Adelanto, Calif., according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
There, deputies discovered that a bounce house had blown away from a nearby home and tumbled onto the highway about a quarter-mile away — with a 9-year-old boy inside.
After the bounce house rolled onto Route 395, the child fell out and hit a car that was traveling south, the sheriff’s department said.
The child was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, police said. The driver of the southbound car was not injured but “was shook up from the ordeal,” the department said.
Authorities did not identify the child. Local news reports showed the boy sitting up on a stretcher, conscious and apparently talking to medics as he was about to be taken away in an ambulance.
The bounce house had been set up for a Mother’s Day party in the adjacent residential neighborhood, according to CBS Los Angeles. Witnesses told the station that neighbors screamed and tried to chase the inflatable house after “a big gust of wind that looked like a tornado” swept it away with the child inside.
The ordeal was the latest harrowing incident involving bounce houses, popular party rental items for children and sometimes adults.
In 2012, a Phoenix-area child received minor injuries after wind picked up a bounce house he had been in, blowing it from the parking lot of a McDonald’s Restaurant into the left-hand turn lane of a major road.
“I bumped my head on the street,” the 4-year-old boy told ABC 15 in a small voice. “I was in the bounce house, and I flew away.”
In 2014, two toddlers in New Hampshire were injured — one in critical condition — after the bounce house in which they had been playing was blown 30 feet into the air.
In 2016, a 7-year-old girl in England died after wind lifted the inflatable castle she was in “30 to 50 feet in the air” with her inside. Two fairground workers were charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, according to the Independent.
“I just heard my mum scream ‘no’ and within seconds it blew away,” the girl’s father, Lee Grant, said in court, according to the newspaper. “It was … just rolling down the field, just rolling and rolling. I think it hit a tree. At the end of the field, it came to a halt when it hit the fence. I couldn’t find her. I couldn’t find the entrance to the bouncy castle as it had deflated by the time it reached the end.”
Even when accidents don’t result in injury or death, they can be horrifying to watch. In 2016, wind lifted a bounce house off the ground in Upstate New York, sending it straight into nearby power lines. No children were inside at the time, WGRZ reported.
A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that, from 1990 to 2010, more than 64,000 children in the United States had suffered “inflatable bouncer-related injuries,” with the number of such injuries doubling to an average of 31 per day between 2008 to 2010.
“Just like the trampolines, bounce houses are NOT safe,” the pediatrics group states on a website devoted to bounce house safety. “Although the actual rides seem pretty harmless, the accidents usually involve falls and faulty installation. Strong winds and poor anchoring can result in either the sets collapsing or becoming airborne, which can cause serious — sometimes fatal — accidents.”
The group recommends that parents renting bounce houses always ask the vendor for detailed setup instructions, as well as weight and operating guidelines. Bounce houses should always be properly anchored to the ground with long metal stakes on a flat, even surface, far from tree branches and power lines.
The Washington Post’s Elisabeth Leamy last year interviewed safety and medical professionals, who suggested these safety tips when it comes to bounce-house use:
Watch out for wind. We’ve all heard the dramatic reports of bounce houses picked up off the ground by wind. Proper anchoring can help, but if it’s a really windy day, better to ditch the bounce house altogether.
Safe surroundings. Whether you’re setting up a moon bounce yourself or have hired a company to do so, make sure it’s well away from walls, greenhouses, concrete surfaces, sharp objects or other areas of potential danger.
Beware of deflation. There have also been multiple reports of children trapped by heavy plastic when moon bounces suddenly deflate, which is a suffocation risk. Generators powering inflatables should have plenty of gas, and electric ones should be plugged into GFI-type outlets, according to the CPSC [Consumer Product Safety Commission]. But most of all, parents should keep an eye on their kids and get them out fast if the contraption starts to collapse.
Other tips include allowing only one child to enter a bounce house at a time, making sure all kids are the same age and/or size, prohibiting touching and stunts inside a bounce house and ensuring adult supervision at all times.