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Beach trampoline operator jailed after child's death in explosion


The owner of an inflatable trampoline, which burst killing a three-year-old girl after throwing her 40ft in the air, was jailed for six months for health and safety offences.

According to witnesses, Ava-May Littleboy was thrown “the height of a house” when the inflatable trampoline she was on, which “had no safety valve”, exploded in July 2018, Chelmsford magistrates court heard.

Judge Christopher Williams said inflatable owner, Curt Johnson, 52, was “willfully blind to the risk” and that the inflatable should not have been in use. He added that there was “no sentence I can pass that can make right this awful tragedy.”

The accident happened at an outdoor attraction on Gorleston beach, Norfolk, during a family holiday.

Ava-May Littleboy appeared to be unconscious before she hit the ground and suffered a fatal head injury.

A nine-year-old girl, Ava-May’s friend, was also on the trampoline when it burst but did not suffer a “significant physical injury”, according to Great Yarmouth Borough Council, which brought the prosecution, at a cost of almost £300,000, along with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Johnson and his company, Johnsons Funfair Ltd, both of Swanston’s Road, Great Yarmouth, had entered guilty pleas to two health and safety offences at an earlier hearing.

Both Johnson and the company, for which he acted as operations manager, admitted importing an inflatable trampoline that they failed to ensure was safe and to failing to ensure people not in their employment were not exposed to risks.

Johnson had arranged the bespoke manufacture of the trampoline, a “sealed unit” which “had no safety valve to release pressure”, from a Chinese manufacturer in 2017.

In 2020, an inquest jury found no procedure was in place to safely manage its inflation, that it had not been checked by an independent third party and had no instruction manual.

The judge said: “Ultimately a child unnecessarily lost their life because of failures on your part to ensure you had appropriate risk assessments in place.”

Ava-May’s father, Nathan Rowe, said in a victim impact statement: “I feel inadequate as a parent. I took my child on holiday and she was killed. Knowing she’d never walk through the door again into our house was just soul-destroying.”

Her mother, Chloe Littleboy, added: “Every day after losing Ava was a blur. How do you start to plan the funeral of your three-year-old daughter?”

The court was told the trampoline had been inspected just four days before Ava-May’s death and found to be unsafe to use. However, no record of this was made and no action was taken to stop the inflatable being used, and it was not registered with an official testing scheme.

In court, Johnson’s barrister, Oliver Campbell, said that Johnson and his wife “deeply regret” the incident and Ava-May’s “tragic death.”

He said:  “He apologises sincerely to the court and the family for his failings,” he said, adding that the company “ceased trading some time ago and will not trade again.”

As well as jailing Johnson, the judge disqualified him from being a company director for five years, fined his company £20,000 and awarded the full costs of the court, the council and HSE, after the court was told that Johnson had an insurance policy to cover these costs.