'I can't breathe, I can't breathe': Seriously injured teen's cry after he landed head-first in a Christchurch trampoline park's foam pit

ACC figures show on average 69 reported trampoline injuries in Christchurch every month between last April and end of July. Photo / File
ACC figures show on average 69 reported trampoline injuries in Christchurch every month between last April and end of July. Photo / File

A teenage boy was doing double flips before he was seriously injured at a Christchurch trampoline park last week, a witness has told the New Zealand Herald.

The boy, aged in his mid-teens, received spinal injuries while at Mega Air Trampoline Arena, in the Christchurch suburb of Hornby, nine days ago.

The witness, who asked not to be named, said she was at the park with friends when the tragedy unfolded.

"We were waiting by the foam pit to jump and we saw this guy trying to get his friend out."

The trapped teen was submerged head-first in the foam pit with only his legs sticking out, she said.

"His friend realised something wasn't right. I saw him jump in and pull him out ... [the boy] was saying 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe'."

A person who worked at the trampoline park told the woman that the boy couldn't move.

"She just said 'he's paralysed'."

The teen remained in the foam pit until emergency services arrived and, after a neck brace was fitted, about six people pulled him from the pit and placed him onto a stretcher.

"He looked really scared and shaken."

She did not see the jump which injured the teen, but had earlier seen him doing double flips into the foam pit, which was against the trampoline park's rules, the woman said.

Mega Air Trampoline Arena director Matthew Haselden did not respond to requests for comment today.

In a statement earlier this week Haselden said the operation had robust health and safety measures.

"Every customer is required to follow rigorous safety precautions and take part in a safety induction, which includes viewing a health and safety video.

"There are also between five and 11 jump guards plus a duty manager supervising the facility at all times." "Real-time video footage allows staff to watch, review and assess safety at all times."

Mega Air was the country's biggest trampoline centre. It opened on August 16 and more than 31,000 people had visited the centre since, Haselden said.

"We are very upset that this injury has occurred and we have been in regular contact with the boy's father to offer support.

"What happened last week appears to have been a freak accident."

The company also contacted WorkSafe, which visited the site last week and advised Mega Air that the foam pit, where the injury happened, met health and safety requirements and could reopen.

"However, as per plans set out three months ago, the foam pit will be replaced with an air bag this week, which is why the foam pit is currently closed."

Nearly $1 million was spent ensuring the facility was safe for public use, Haselden said, and more than $500,000 was spent putting specific health and safety measures in place.

Before the centre opened, NZ consulting engineers from NZ carried out a full compliance test, Haselden said.

Worksafe is investigating the incident.

No prohibition notices had been issued in the interim, but Worksafe had also been notified of a further five incidents at the trampoline park and were considering what, if any, action it should take.

It had received no notifications from any other trampoline parks in Christchurch, a Worksafe spokesman said.

"WorkSafe will be issuing a technical bulletin in the next few days advising trampoline parks of their health and safety obligations and how they can meet those obligations.

"That will be posted on our website and sent to all known trampoline parks around New Zealand."

ACC has also released data showing the opening of two new trampoline centres in Christchurch had corresponded in a jump in reported injuries.

ACC figures showed on average 69 reported trampoline injuries in Christchurch every month between last April and end of July.

But in August there were 130 cases, with another 202 in September, and already there has been 58 trampoline injuries reported to ACC from the Christchurch region this month.

While the data did not reveal where the injuries occurred - whether they were at home, parks, or trampoline centres - the spike in injuries has corresponded with the opening of Mega Air and Flip Out centres which have started operating since August.

Christchurch emergency doctors have also seen 28 injuries in the past two months from indoor trampoline parks in the city, including two people who broke their necks.

Mega Air Trampoline Arena has defended its "rigorous safety precautions".

Canterbury District Health Board will not reveal details of the boy's condition as the family had requested complete privacy.

But the board's emergency department director Scott Pearson said it had seen a cluster of injuries linked to the centres, including two broken necks, fractures, lacerations and serious spinal and facial injuries.

Pearson said 10 people were injured in August and 18 in September at the parks.

"We have seen a cluster of trampoline-related injuries in recent months, linked to the two new indoor trampoline parks in the city."

St John Ambulance spokesman Ian Henderson confirmed it was called to Mega Air just after 6pm last Monday.

A boy in his mid-teens was taken by ambulance to Christchurch Hospital with serious injuries, Henderson said.

A senior New Zealand trampolining coach and 44-year veteran of the sport, Nigel Humphreys, said he planned to raise his concerns with Mega Air.

"First and foremost of my concerns would be the level of training of the staff, but also the facility itself. There needs to be considerable thought with regards to how it's laid out," the owner of ICE Trampoline Sports in Rangiora said.

"My athletes have bought a session within both of the trampoline parks, but bear in mind they are athletes with a considerable amount of skill on a trampoline."

An ordinary person using a trampoline might not have the same level of tension in their body as a professional athlete, Humphreys said.

The bounce from the trampoline would rebound on the person, and if they aren't properly set, accidents could happen.

A post on Mega Air's Facebook page the day after the accident stated that the foam pits had been closed "in preparation for the arrival of a brand new air bag!".

As well as the extensive trampoline areas, the park also has at least two sponge pits.

The main pit is described on Mega Air's website.

"Five trampoline launch pads allow you to catapult into a 9m sponge pit filled with thousands of gymnastic-grade foam cubes. You can practise your aerial moves before you have a soft landing in the sponge pit.

"For safety's sake, we do not allow diving or landing head-first and only allow a single jumper at a time."

- NZ Herald

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