A funfair manager has been jailed for six months after the death of a three-year-old girl after an inflatable trampoline exploded.
Curt Johnson, of Swanston’s Road, Great Yarmouth, admitted offences of having consented to or connived in each of the company’s two offences, or those being attributable to his neglect.
He was sentenced to six months in custody for each offence, to be served concurrently, and disqualified as a director for five years.
The girl, Ava-May Littleboy was killed after the trampoline exploded.
Ava-May, from Somersham in Suffolk, had been taken by family and friends to the Bounce About trampoline attraction at the beach at Gorleston-on-Sea in Norfolk, on July 1, 2018.
She was thrown high into the air and landed on the beach, where she suffered fatal head injuries.
Another child, aged nine, also suffered minor injuries in the incident.
Witnesses say Ava-May was shot up between 20 and 40 feet – around the height of a house.
Major safety checks were not carried out
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found Johnson had imported the inflatable trampoline into the UK from China in 2017.
He had put the trampoline to use without any of the required testing and certification to ensure it was safe to be used by the public.
The rules state the importer of such an item must ensure there has been a proper review of the design.
It also needed verification that the item has been manufactured in accordance with the design.
A detailed test by a suitable expert on the item’s arrival in the UK was also required.
None of this was done.
Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard there had been no proper risk assessment or work procedure laid down.
It was also revealed the company used undertrained staff paid cash in hand.
Some of these staff were too young to work without child work permits.
It transpired these were not applied for, and would not have been granted for work at such a fairground.
Johnsons Funfair Limited, of Swanston’s Road, Great Yarmouth, as importer and site operator, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 6(1A)(a) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
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The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £288,475.62 in costs.
“It’s amazing as a parent that so many people care about your child”
Chloe Littleboy, Ava-May’s mother, said: “Birthdays are always at her bench in the park.
“Balloons, flowers, cakes and sweets decorate it and the whole family go there together to celebrate. That’s now the family ‘thing’, spending her birthday, Christmas and the anniversary of her death all together.”
Nathan Rowe, Ava-May’s father, added: “It’s amazing as a parent that so many people care about your child.
“It’s surprising how one little girl had impacted on so many lives.
“I read her eulogy and it was my one and only chance to pay tribute to her and her short life.
“I don’t know of another father who’s had to do this.”
Johnsons Funfair Limited, trading as Bounce About, operated a number of bouncy castles, slides and other inflatables on the beach at Gorleston, and at another site on Great Yarmouth beach.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council worked with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on a joint prosecution.
Fun day out “ended in tragedy”
HSE principal inspector Ivan Brooke said: “Our thoughts today are with the family of Ava-May. This was supposed to be a fun day out, but it ended in tragedy.”
“The operator flouted the rules on certification and testing to devastating consequences.”
“Had the company carried out the required checks, and followed the freely available, well-established guidance, this tragedy would not have happened.”
“Since the tragedy, and following the inquest, we published supplementary guidance more specific to sealed inflatables. They should be checked over by the responsible body before they are used, and maintained effectively throughout.”
“Incidents with inflatables are extremely rare, but we will not hesitate to take strong action if funfairs do not take the required precautions.”
James Wilson, head of environment and sustainability at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, added: ‘’It has been five years since Ava May died so tragically during what should have been a safe family day out at the beach.”
“The safety of the public is of paramount importance and it was essential Great Yarmouth Borough Council and our partners at the Health and Safety Executive carried out a thorough investigation to try to ensure such a tragedy is not repeated.”
“The prosecution and sentencing of those responsible finally brings some closure to what has been an unbearably difficult time for Ava May’s family and the council is pleased justice has been served.”
“We hope this case highlights how operators must ensure safety of their customers at all times.’’
The prosecution was supported by HSE enforcement lawyer Kate Harney and by Norfolk County Council solicitor David Lowens.