Witness says 'heart was racing' as bouncy castle blown away

7:30 am on 1 January 2023

By Carmen Hall and Raphael Franks of NZ Herald

Otūmoetai Beach in Tauranga

The incident happened at Fergusson Park, near Otūmoetai Beach. Photo: Wikipedia

New Year's Eve revellers witnessed the "terrifying" moment a bouncy castle was picked up by the wind and tumbled across a Tauranga park during festivities.

Witnesses described people being "squashed" during the incident at Fergusson Park, near Otūmoetai Beach, while others said children were flung from the bouncy castle as it tumbled towards the sea.

One person was taken to hospital and three others were treated by medical staff on-site.

An eyewitness said the bouncing castle blew about 50 metres to 100 metres. They also said there were many concerned parents chasing after the bouncing castle as it rolled away.

A reporter at the scene said the bouncing castle had since been dismantled but the New Year's Eve celebrations at Fergusson Park were going ahead.

"As a precaution, all inflatable devices were closed at all the community events as soon as we were notified of the incident," the council said in a statement.

A council spokesperson said they were waiting for further information on those injured.

They were "concerned" by the incident and said it was a "high likelihood" those injured were young people.

WorkSafe was notified, and the council would undertake their own investigations.

Emergency services responded to the incident on Tilby Drive, which bears similarity to an incident in Australia in December 2021 where five children were killed and four were injured. A sudden gust of wind picked up a bouncy castle at a primary school fair in Devonport, Tasmania.

In Tauranga, witness James Mason said "all of a sudden" the wind "took it up and turned it over" and some children "fell out".

When it started rolling he said his "heart was racing" because his children were playing inflatable soccer nearby.

"It was frightening to see."

He said his mind went to the fatal bouncy castle accident in Australia in 2021.

He said he rushed to help an injured young woman, who he understood may have been thrown from the castle and taken a hard landing.

Mason said he did not understand why the bouncy castle had been kept up in the wind, and said an inflatable basketball hoop had been taken down earlier in the evening.

A witness who would not be named said she checked the castle when her daughter was playing on it about 15 minutes before the accident and it was "bolted" to the ground.

She said she was scared for the children involved and would never be letting hers on a bouncy castle again.

Mum Corey Hona said the band stopped playing, the event fell quiet and people were "shocked" as the bouncing castle went "flying through the air".

She said they could see the heads of children still inside the bouncing castle as it rolled.

Hona said her 3-year-old had been asking to go on the bouncy castle and she was now glad she hadn't.

A witness who would only be named as Anna said a few people were hurt as the bouncing castle tumbled across the park.

She said it blew about 100m and children were being "squashed" underneath it as parents chased it.

She also saw a man trying to crawl out from under it.

"It was terrifying."

Witness Scottie Davison said he heard "screaming" as a big gust of wind sent the bouncing castle tumbling with kids still inside.

He said there were kids playing other games, including inflatable soccer, in front of the bouncing castle and it "took them out". It rolled "at least" 100m, completing four full rotations.

Davison said it was a "big shock" and the castle was deflated "instantly" after the incident.He understood a bystander was injured and taken away by ambulance.

One witness, AJ Weeks, said on social media, "We were in its path. We managed to get out of the way. Others didn't see it coming.

"It was horrible," Weeks said.

Another witness, Chloe Ann, said it was "quite terrifying to watch all the people in its path. The ambulances are helping the people injured".

One father who was attending the event, but did not want to be named, said his son was waiting in line for his turn on the bouncing castle.

"I watched it flying away and I went running over to see where my son was in line."

The father said he saw a woman lying on the ground being treated by ambulance staff.

"My son said he heard a snapping sound and there were lots of kids trying to jump off the castle before it blew away.

"You'd think in this wind it would have been tied down better."

A police spokeswoman told the Bay of Plenty Times that police had been notified of the incident at 7.42pm.

"We were notified of an incident at Fergusson Park and that a bouncing castle has blown away."

The spokeswoman said ambulance and Fire and Emergency services were also at the scene.

A FENZ spokesperson said staff had attended the incident but had since left.

St John Ambulance and the Tauranga City Council have been approached for comment.

Five children were killed in a similar incident in Australia in December 2021. A sudden gust of wind picked up a bouncy castle at a primary school fair in Devonport, Tasmania.

The incident in Australia left the local community reeling, with subsequent bans on bouncy castles at school fairs by the Education Department until investigations worked out how the castle became untethered and flew some 10m into the air.

This story has appeared on the New Zealand Herald website.

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