Last reviewed 16 November 2023
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.
A three year-old girl, Ava-May Littleboy, was playing on an inflatable trampoline on a Norfolk beach when it exploded, ejecting her high into the air.
She and a nine year-old girl were on the Bounce About attraction that had been set up on the beach at Gorleston-on-Sea when the blast happened without warning. While the older child suffered minor injuries, witnesses described Ava-May as being thrown “higher than a house”.
She landed on the beach and sustained fatal head injuries.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council worked with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on a joint prosecution. Charges were brought against the company and its operations manager, Curt Johnson, whose wife was sole owner and director of the company.
The investigation found that Mr Johnson, on behalf of the company, had imported the inflatable trampoline from China in 2017 and had put it into use without carrying out any of the required testing and certification to ensure it was safe to be used by the public.
An importer of such an item equipment must ensure that there has been a proper review of the design, verification that the item has been manufactured in accordance with the design, and a detailed test by a suitable expert on the item’s arrival in the UK, the HSE pointed out.
None of these steps had been carried out.
In operational terms, there had been no proper risk assessment or work procedure laid down, and the company used under-trained staff paid cash in hand, some of them too young to work without child work permits, which were not sought and would not have been granted for work at such a fairground.
Crucially, the defendants allowed the company’s inflatables to be operated despite not having, and not seeking, any operating instructions from the manufacturer, and without having their inflatables properly annually checked and certified by an independent expert under the ADIPS scheme (a scheme for checks comparable to MoT checks for vehicles).
Johnsons Funfair Limited pleaded guilty to breaching ss. 6(1A)(a) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974. It was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £288,475.62 in costs.
Mr Johnson pleaded guilty to 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 was disqualified as a director for five years.
The HSE highlighted guidance on sealed inflatables which can be found at here.