Two fairground workers were convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence after a bouncy castle blew away with a young girl.
William Thurston and his wife Shelby were each sentenced to three years at Chelmsford Crown Court. They were also sentenced to 12 months in prison for two charges of failing to discharge a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act, to run concurrently.
Summer Grant, aged seven, died after the inflatable was carried 300m across a park in Harlow, Essex, in March 2016.
The judge told the couple that they “took the most monumental risk with children’s lives by continuing to allow children on the bouncy castle…and that risk-taking cost Summer her life”.
He also called on the Health And Safety Executive (HSE) to take the steps necessary to make it compulsory for fairground operators to have proper wind speed measuring equipment. The HSE guidance already recommended that operators measure local wind speeds with an anemometer when opening rides.
Summer, who died of “multiple traumatic injuries to the head, neck and chest”, had been visiting the Easter fair at Harlow Town Park with her father Lee and other relatives. She was inside the Circus Superdome attraction when it was blown away from its moorings and down a hill before hitting a tree.
The defendants worked for Thurston’s Funfairs, a family-run business that operates funfairs across the country. The court heard how on the day of the incident the wind speeds and gusts had been increasing throughout the day, with the highest gusts in the area of 35-40mph occurring late afternoon. But the couple continued to operate the bouncy castle, did not ensure that it was safely secured to the ground, and also failed to monitor the weather to ensure that the castle was safe to use. The earlier trial heard Summer only had “a few minutes” left of her turn but Shelby Thurston decided to “let them finish their go” before taking the inflatable down.
A yellow Met Office weather warning had been in place for the area and wind speeds and gusts increased throughout the day up to 66kph. The HSE carried out testing on the inflatable and found that it should not have been used in wind speeds above 38 kph. The HSE also identified damage to a power cable, which had bare wires exposed and should have been identified during daily checks. The investigation also found that the inflatable’s design did not conform to the relevant British Standard for safety (BS EN 14960) and that in particular that its anchorage points were insufficient.
The senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Stoten of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said after the trial: “The inflatable should never have been in use in those weather conditions and the operators should never have allowed Summer to play on it.”