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Inquest: Trampoline burst ‘due to hot weather’, owner allegedly wrote

PUBLISHED: 15:41 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:55 12 March 2020

Ava-May Littleboy, who died after being thrown from a trampoline in Gorleston. PHOTO: Courtesy of the Littleboy family

Ava-May Littleboy, who died after being thrown from a trampoline in Gorleston. PHOTO: Courtesy of the Littleboy family

Archant

The owner of an inflatable trampoline that exploded and threw a little girl to her death allegedly wrote in an email that the equipment burst due to “being over-pressurised and due to the hot weather”, an inquest has heard.

People gather on Gorleston beach to mark the one week anniversary of the tragic event leading to the death of Ava-May Littleboy.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018People gather on Gorleston beach to mark the one week anniversary of the tragic event leading to the death of Ava-May Littleboy. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

He allegedly wrote in a separate email to the trampoline's Chinese manufacturer hours after Ava-May Littleboy died asking for 'anything which shows your products meet British standards'.

Both emails were read aloud by Norfolk's senior coroner Jacqueline Lake, who warned Curt Johnson that he could incriminate himself if he confirmed whether or not they were sent by him.

In both cases he declined to answer.

Ava-May was playing on the attraction when it burst on the beach at Gorleston in Norfolk on July 1 2018.

Norfolk's new coroner Jacqueline Lake.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYNorfolk's new coroner Jacqueline Lake. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Witnesses said she was sent tumbling into the air - higher than the height of a house - before landing on her face on the sand.

The three-year-old, from Lower Somersham in Suffolk, died in hospital of a head injury.

Ms Lake read aloud from an email that was allegedly sent from Mr Johnson to equipment inspector Henry Rundle in the days after the incident.

The author of the email said they believed the accident 'was due to the trampoline being over-pressurised and due to the hot weather'.

Mr Johnson did not answer whether or not he sent the email.

Asked by Ms Lake if Mr Rundle had expressed any concerns to Mr Johnson when he inspected the inflatable trampoline five days before Ava-May's death, Mr Johnson said: 'I don't mind answering that question, and that answer is no.'

Mr Johnson allegedly sent an email to the trampoline's manufacturer on the evening of July 1, 2018, asking for 'anything which shows your products meet British standards'.

'I know they do, but the council need to see paperwork,' the email continued.

The coroner warned Mr Johnson that he may incriminate himself if he answered a question about whether the email was sent by him.

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Mr Johnson said: 'I prefer not to answer that question.'

In two further emails sent on the same day, the author asked the manufacturer for an operating manual for the trampoline, 'details of the certification quality of the PVC' and what pressure it should be operated at, Ms Lake said.

Earlier in the hearing, Mr Johnson confirmed that a series of emails sent to the manufacturer in late 2016 and early 2017 asking to 'get a price to make an inflatable trampoline' and progressing designs were sent by him.

Mr Johnson had voiced concerns over the quality of products that he had previously bought from the inflatables manufacturer.

In one email, sent in April 2017 and which Mr Johnson confirmed was sent by him, he said: 'Remember the Minions Fun City had some problems with quality.'

The company, in its reply, assured Mr Johnson that unlike the Minions bouncy castle: 'We will make the trampoline by the thickest material.'

Mr Johnson also wrote to the company saying he would email them photos of the Minions bouncy castle 'so you can see how rubbish' the material is.

Ms Lake said to Mr Johnson: 'In the light of emails you had with (the inflatables manufacturer) referring to the quality of the materials, you clearly had concerns about the quality.'

'Yes, that's correct,' he said.

'But my concerns were, working with (the inflatables manufacturer) for the last 15 or 16 years, there've been times they've used a lesser quality material, but not on the main structure - on some of the characters.'

Mr Johnson also said that on the morning of Ava-May's death he connected a fan to the equipment and switched it on while setting up attractions at Bounce About.

He said it takes roughly 15 minutes to inflate the trampoline, and after the fan had been on for 'a couple of minutes' he said he left the site.

The inquest heard he later sent a text message to a child worker telling him he 'didn't do as I asked' by failing to notify his wife when the device was fully inflated.

He wrote in the message: 'Guys, we are in bits. It doesn't matter what you say in your interviews as all the blame is on us as you work for us.'

The inquest, which is being heard by a jury, continues.

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