A girl, three, died after being thrown from an inflatable trampoline when it exploded underneath her, an inquest heard today. Ava-May Littleboy had been at the beach in Gorleston, Norfolk, with her parents Chloe Littleboy, 27, and Nathan Rowe, 36, grandparents, aunt Abbie, 23, and family friend Beth Jones, 26, when the incident happened on July 1 2018.
The inquest heard Abbie had taken Ava-May to a Bounce About attraction, where she heard a ‘really loud bang’ after looking away for a short period of time. She then saw her niece ‘flipping’ through the air, with Beth stating that the girl had been thrown as high as 20ft into the sky.
Ava-May landed ‘on the right side of her face’, and later died from severe head injuries, the inquest was told.
Abbie told Norfolk coroner’s court how the blue trampoline had been highly inflated, with stiff sides ‘rounded and full of air’. Other witnesses described a pump as still being attached to the trampoline after it exploded. Abbie said: ‘I didn’t take much notice of it – I thought it needed to be like it and that it needed more pressure. I just assumed it was how it was meant to be.’
Ava-May had been placed on the trampoline by an attendant, with Abbie and Beth stating that they were near enough to grab hold of her if she fell off. Abbie then described hearing a bang like ‘someone had set off a cannon’, adding: ‘It was the loudest bang I had ever heard. The bang came from the trampoline. ‘It looked like it had burst. It looked as if it was the blue bit which was tight and bulging. I saw a hole where the bulge had been.
‘Ava took the full force of it. In a second, I looked up and saw Ava in the air. She was just flipping. When I first looked, I saw her face. Her eyes were closed and she didn’t scream or make a noise. ‘I think the impact had forced her up and knocked her out. It looked like she was asleep.’
The inquest heard a female member of staff had tried to hold out her arms and catch the girl before she landed on the sand, where Beth, a nurse, then attempted to resuscitate her. Abbie had then ran over to her family ‘screaming the whole way’, telling them: ‘Ava’s gone, Ava’s gone’. Beth said in a statement: ‘She went up so high, it was higher than my house, about 20ft. There was a massive thud and Ava came down on her face and tummy.’
Mum Chloe, an admin worker, described being in ‘total shock’ as she saw her daughter lying on the sand and not breathing. She said: ‘It was like being stuck in a horrible nightmare. It was all happening in front of me and I was hoping I would wake up from it. ‘Although I was screaming I couldn’t actually cry. I just stood there shaking and screaming.
‘I kept saying they were doing compressions on her too hard. I just felt out of control and unable to do anything.’ Ava-May was rushed to James Paget Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. Chloe said she felt ‘horrible, empty and lost’ after ‘perfect’ Ava-May’s death. She continued: ‘When they said she was no longer alive, it felt my whole world had crashed. I just kept telling her I loved her again and again.
‘Leaving her was horrible. It was the worst thing I have to do in my life. It felt like we were leaving her alone. She had never been alone before, even for five minutes.’ Jacqueline Lake, Norfolk’s senior coroner, said evidence would be heard about the ‘acquisition of the inflatable trampoline, risk assessments carried out, working practices at Johnson Funfairs Limited and the responsibilities and roles within that business’ during the inquest, which will last over nine days.