Park swing could be a killer, says mum


A young girl who sustained serious injuries in an accident on a popular piece of playground equipment at Omokoroa Domain is lucky to be alive, her mother says.

Sarah Nelson is now questioning a Western Bay District Council decision to retain the lullaby swing at Omokoroa Domain after her daughter was seriously injured on it about a year ago.

Zoe Nelson, now 13, was playing on the long wooden swing at a friend's birthday party when she was flung off it, Mrs Nelson said.

Zoe was thrown off with such force that when she came back down she hit her head on the top of the swing.

"She was in the middle. It's hard to stay on in the middle when it's swinging really fast," Mrs Nelson said.

"She got flipped up and she hit half her body on the swing and got knocked out. When I got [to the park] she was incoherent and rambling and confused. She broke her nose, had three loose teeth and was bruised all over."

Zoe spent a day in hospital, was off school for a long time, lost one tooth and has no memory of the accident or the couple of hours after it.

"It could easily have been fatal if she'd hit her head in a different place," Mrs Nelson said.

The swing was being used correctly, with four people on it, although the 12-year-olds would have had the swing moving fast, she said.

Ms Nelson was concerned about the safety of other kids using the swing.

Zoe was not the only one to have been injured on the lullaby, she said.

One child sprained her arm when she fell off the swing and another got his foot caught in the mechanism.

The fate of the 44-year-old swing hung in the balance when the Western Bay District Council decided in 2005 to replace it with a modern version that offered the same experience.

Alternatives failed to win the backing of the Omokoroa Community Board and a 300-strong community petition in favour of the swing convinced the council to keep it, as reported in the Bay of Plenty Times earlier this month.

Ms Nelson said she was disappointed not everyone in the community had been consulted about the swing.

Other parents she had talked to shared her sentiment about the lullaby.

"They are surprised it's still there. I don't agree with it because of Zoe's accident. It could very nearly have been fatal."

At the very least a fence should be put around the swing to keep kids out of harm's way when the swing is in action, Mrs Nelson said.

A consultant specialising in playground equipment had strongly recommended removing the lullaby to reduce the risk on the council by complying with best-practice guidelines.

Operations committee chairman Kevin Marsh told the Bay of Plenty Times that no facts had been presented to the meeting about injuries caused by the swing.

The council decided to spend up to $15,000 to retain the swing, including putting up a sign warning users of the lullaby's hazards. A new safety surface will be laid under the swing, surface corrosion removed and the steel restored, and the padding improved at each end of the swing plank to better absorb impacts.

It was also agreed that the domain's playground equipment would be included in the next review of the reserve management plan. Community Board chairman Glenn Whittaker welcomed the decision, saying the swing was a much-loved and much-used piece of equipment.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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