Funfair worker tried to catch toddler thrown from exploded trampoline, inquest hears
PUBLISHED: 14:55 09 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:04 09 March 2020
Ava-May Littleboy was just three years old when she died on Gorleston beach on July 1, 2018.
The inquest into her death began on Monday (March 9) at Norfolk Coroner's Court, sitting at the Mercure Hotel in Norwich.
It heard that Ava-May was at the beach with her parents and wider family, from Lower Somersham in Suffolk, when her aunt Abbie Littleboy and Ms Littleboy's best friend Beth Jones took her to the inflatables.
Ms Littleboy said the sides of the inflatable trampoline seemed 'stiff'.
'I didn't take much notice of it. I thought it needed to be like it and that it needed more pressure,' she added.
'I just assumed it was how it was meant to be.'
She said Ava-May was playing on the trampoline when there was a 'really loud bang, as if someone let off a cannon'.
'It was the loudest bang I have ever heard,' Ms Littleboy said.
She said when she looked back at the trampoline it looked 'as if it had burst'.
Another girl of similar age to Ava-May was on the inflatable trampoline when it exploded, the inquest heard.
Ms Littleboy said she was told the other child 'skimmed across the sand but was okay'.
Ms Jones, a nurse, said she heard a 'loud bang' and Ava-May 'went up so high, it was higher than my house, about 20ft'.
She remembered screaming 'catch her' and a funfair worker 'had her arms fully out and was moving to try to catch her, but she couldn't as it was too quick', the inquest heard.
Chloe Littleboy, Ava-May's mother, said in a statement read by the coroner: 'It was like being stuck in a nightmare. I could see it happen all in front of me.'
'Although I was screaming I couldn't actually cry. I just stood there shaking and screaming.
'I just felt out of control and was unable to do anything,' she said.
Ava-May was later taken to the James Paget Hospital, the inquest heard.
'When they said she was no longer alive I felt my whole world had crashed,' Ms Littleboy said.
Nathan Rowe, Ava-May's father, said in a statement 12 days after his daughter's death: 'It was as if someone had stuck their hand in my chest and pulled out my heart.
'It is as if someone is slowly and painfully squeezing the life out of me.'
He added: 'My heart is scattered all over that beach.
'I will never go back there as long as I live.'
The family had been staying at a holiday park on the coast and that morning bought Ava-May a kite, bucket and spade.
READ MORE: 'She was not your ordinary little girl' - family pay tribute to victim of Gorleston tragedy
'Little did I know walking across the beach my life was about to change forever,' Ms Littleboy said.
Shanice Yaxley said her daughter had also been on the trampoline when it exploded.
'No-one told us not to go on there, or to get off it,' she said.
Sophie Alderton said in a statement she was on the beach the night before the death when she saw three young children playing around an inflatable slide while it was being deflated.
'I thought this was dangerous,' she said.
Earlier, Jacqueline Lake, Senior Coroner for Norfolk, said evidence will 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'.
She said: 'The evidence will not include the reason why the inflatable trampoline exploded.'
The inquest is expected to last for nine days.