17 Feb 2016

Investigation after slide collapses as children play on it

8:28 am on 17 February 2016

An event hire company is under investigation for the second time in a year after an inflatable slide collapsed at the Hamilton Gardens while children were playing on it.

Worksafe New Zealand has confirmed it is investigating Event Fun, just months after its manager was fined $115,000.

Inflatable slide (stock photo).

Worksafe is investigating Event Fun over an inflatable slide's collapse. Photo: 123RF

A parent whose child was on the slide when it collapsed said it was a terrifying ordeal.

Malcolm Barr goes to to the Gourmet in the Gardens event almost every weekend with his family.

Last Sunday, the event added a new inflatable slide and Mr Barr let his six year old play on it.

"There was a young three year old, who's a friend of ours, and she was stuck up there and wouldn't come down and was crying.

"Her father went up to help her, and while he was up there, the top of the slide started to collapse.

"Where I was standing, right in front of it, it lifted right up and the children at the top disappeared from view."

Mr Barr said he and several other men ran around the back of the slide, which had pushed over a temporary fence, and pulled the children to safety.

"While it went down reasonably slowly, it was quick enough that people were panicked, and it wouldn't have taken much for a child to panic and try and jump to safety.

"It was a concrete path behind, and if they had gone down onto that or onto the path behind, there could've been a seriously injured kid."

He said no one was supervising the slide when it collapsed.

"For a short time there it was terrifying, we didn't know what was going to be happening.

In February 2015, six children were hospitalised after another inflatable slide, also operated by Event Fun, buckled at the Masterton A&P show.

In December, Event Fun manager Eric Gerritsen was fined $115,0000 by Worksafe NZ for obstructing an investigation into the incident and failing to provide information.

Mr Gerritsen said the incident in Hamilton on Sunday was not as dangerous as people were saying and was over very quickly.

He said it was "devastating" a mistake had been made, and it was not a failure of the company's safety protocol, but human error by a staff member, that caused the collapse.

"He let the whole company down, and he feels pretty bad about it.

Mr Gerritsen said his number one priority is the safety of children.

"My kids play on our slides. If I thought they weren't safe I wouldn't let them play on it. "That to me is a pretty good safety standard."

A manager for Gourmet in the Gardens, Frank Tewani, said he was aware Event Fun had been investigated when it was brought on.

"We knew something had happened, but we've been with them since November and it's the first time an accident has actually happened with us being with them."

He said the organisers were doing their own investigation to find out what lead to the incident.

Hamilton Gardens business development manager Malcolm Hazelton said in a statement the organisation was talking to Gourmet in the Gardens to find out what happened and to make sure it did not happen again.

Masterton A&P show manager Melissa Warren said a different firm was running entertainment at the show this year. "We are very happy with this provider and will not find it necessary or appropriate to use Event Fun Ltd in the future."