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Bouncy castle couple jailed following child's death

Katie Coyne21/06/2018 - 13:25

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Fairground workers jailed
Fairground workers jailed

Two fairground workers found to be responsible for the death of a seven-year-old girl blown away on a bouncy castle after it was not properly tethered have been jailed for three years.

Summer Grant was trapped inside the Circus Super Dome bouncy castle when it was blown by winds and travelled 300 metres down a hill before hitting a tree.

Summer was taken to hospital but died shortly afterwards, following the incident on 26 March, 2016, at the fairground in Harlow Town Park, Essex.

An earlier hearing heard that Shelby Thurston, 25, and William Thurston Jnr, 28, of Whitecross Road, Wilburton, had not adequately anchored the inflatable to the ground and failed to monitor weather conditions.

The married couple were convicted by a jury on 9 May of manslaughter by gross negligence. The pair were also found guilty of two counts of failing to discharge a general health and safety duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act for which they received a one year sentence to run concurrently.

According to the British Standard and the manufacturer of the inflatable the bouncy castle should not have been in operation with wind speeds exceeding 24mph. Athe time of the incident wind speeds were gusting at 35-40mph and the Health and Safety Executive said it should have been deflated before Summer even arrived at the fair.

Witnesses told the court how a yellow weather warning had been issued ahead of the arrival of storm Katie two days later, and that on the day itself it had been windy and rainy.

Mr Justice Garnham, sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court on 15 June described the couple as taking ‘the most monumental risk with children’s lives by continuing to allow children on the bouncy castle’ after they closed a second inflatable they were in charge of, ‘and that risk-taking cost Summer her life.’

He also urged the HSE to make wind speed monitoring equipment compulsory at fairgrounds.

He said: ‘It strikes me as extraordinary in the 21st century that it is common in the fairground industry that inflatable play equipment is open to the public without the operators using proper wind speed measuring devices. Aadequate wind meters can be purchased for £100 or less. He urged the HSE to take steps to make their use compulsory.

Two years ago, the HSE rejected calls to review the regulation of inflatable installations. It has said it will consider the judge’s recommendations.

An HSE spokesperson said: ‘We will consider the judge’s comments. We have supported the police throughout the investigation into this tragic incident.’

HSE said that the Thurstons had had a duty to carry out daily checks, secure the anchorage points available to the ground and monitor weather conditions. The Circus Super Dome had been discovered to have insufficient anchorage points, a damaged blower cable and incorrect markings of emergency exits. But tests showed it would have remained tethered at 24mph had the 17 available ground anchors been used.

Summer’s mother Cara Blackie, from Norwich, said: ‘I remember walking in and seeing my daughter’s lifeless body. What she went through was just awful; how scared she must have been. I kept thinking how an earth am I supposed to tell Lily, my younger daughter, that Summer wasn’t coming back.’

The family’s moving comments are recorded onan Essex police website.

Senior investigating officer, detective chief inspector Daniel Stoten, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: ‘I often think of Summer.  My dearest thoughts are with Cara, Lee, Lily and their wider family. I wish the family peace for the future.’

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