Ever since his 4-year-old son slipped into a hole in a bounce house and got trapped underneath it, Brendon Rambud has been urging parents to pay attention to the serious risks of playing in inflatable castles. (Photo/GIF: Brendon Rambaud/Facebook)
Try to bounce back from this: Being swept away on the wind isn’t the only terrifying danger kids can experience in inflatable castles. Children can also get sucked underneath bouncy houses, as one family learned the hard way last weekend at a birthday party.
Four-year-old Deacon Rambaud was joyfully jumping around in a bounce house at Inflatable World in Glenfield, New Zealand when he slipped backwards, got pulled completely underneath the inflatable, and became trapped in the castle’s matting. Luckily Deacon’s dad Brendon Rambaud was watching. The father had been taking video of his son and immediately jumped into to help him. “He could of suffocated,” Brendon wrote on Facebook about the incident. “I had to rip the cover back and all I could see was [his] foot so I grabbed it and pulled him out….If I [hadn’t] seen it happen, they wouldn’t of found him till they [packed] it up to put it away. You couldn’t even hear him screaming underneath the matting.”
Posting his video of the incident on Facebook Tuesday as a cautionary tale to other parents, the dad admitted, “We hate to think what could have happened. A friend’s little boy along with two other children were also sucked in too…If I wasn’t there watching him, no-one would have known he was in there.“
The facility’s staff weren’t observing the kids, Brendon continues, nor did they help the family. “[They] couldn’t have cared less and continued talking to one another,” he writes (Brendon didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment). “We complained AND showed them this video and they continued to use it! How is this ok?”
“You couldn’t even hear him screaming underneath,” Brandon Rambaud writes of his son’s slip in a bounce house, caught on video. (Photo: Brendon Rambaud/Facebook)
Local news reported that the Inflatable World manager has fixed the gap that Deacon fell into. What remains an issue — for all parents — is the increasing rate of injury in bounce houses, whether it be from equipment related faults, weather, or the fallout from kids flying through the air and crashing down, over and over and over.
“A child every 46 minutes nationally” is injured in bounce houses, according to a 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics. In that research — conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio — data shows that the rate of broken bones, bruises and concussions has increased 15 fold since 1995. "That’s an epidemic by any definition,” one of the researchers, pediatrician Gary Smith, of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, told ABC News. “If this was an infectious disease it would be on the front page of every newspaper in the country."
To prevent injuries — 43 percent of which Smith’s team reports were caused by falls — the report recommends only kids over age 6 play in bouncy houses, and one at a time when they do. But if you still want to let your kiddos cut loose with their friends on bouncy house play dates and parties, National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials spokesperson Laura Woodburn tells Yahoo Parenting there are a few easy steps that parents can take to keep kids safe.
Make sure operators are following bounce house manufacturer’s rules.
“Most inflatable attractions have basic operating instructions stitched right to them so you can read them,” she says. Check them out and look to see that they’re being followed.
Do a height check.
Teens jumping around in the same bounce castle with toddlers is obviously a recipe for disaster. So don’t let your child jump in unless the other kids bouncing around are relatively the same size. Bigger kids’ rebounds may provide too much bounce for littler kids, explains Woodburn, who also advises asking operators the maximum number of kids allowed in a castle at one time. That way, she says, you know that they’re aware of whether the inflatable is at risk for becoming over-weighted.
Watch how much operators are paying attention.
“Most inflatables require a minimum of one person, and if that one person is grouping kids and keeping kids of the same size together, he or she can get the job done,” says Woodburn. But you want to make sure the operator is following — and enforcing — the rules as well, including policing kids’ roughhousing in the bounce house and ensuring that no one wears shoes. Just don’t expect that an operator is a babysitter. “It’s great that Deacon’s dad was watching him,” Woodburn says. “That’s exactly what parents should do. The more eyes, the better.”
Read rules aloud with children.
Sharing the rules, point blank, lets kids know what’s expected of them, says Woodburn. “Certain types of jumps on inflatables may not be permitted,” she explains. “A Moon Bounce inflatable may not allow cannonball jumps inside.” And parents need to follow the rules too. “If a child isn’t tall enough to participate or seems scared, don’t sneak them in or force them to try it.”
Finally, follow your gut.
“Don’t ever hesitate to demand that all children be removed if you want to get your child out,” she says. “If you feel something is not right, make sure the operator takes care of whatever it is. Don’t wait until time is up or the cycle is over.” That may, after all, be too late.