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Wichita schools won't rent inflatables from business where boy died

Wichita schools that want inflatable rides for field days, after-prom parties and other events can no longer rent them from Moonwalks For Fun Inc., according to a directive issued by the district.

Darren Muci, division director of operations for Wichita schools, said the district removed the company and its subsidiaries, Affordable Moonwalks and Kansas Inflatables, from its list of approved vendors in the wake of a fatal fall last month at an indoor inflatable playground.

Officials also plan to review the district's policies and safety guidelines regarding amusement rides at school events, Muci said.

Five-year-old Matthew Branham died March 22 after falling from an inflatable at Pure Entertainment, near Kellogg and Tyler, and striking his head on a concrete floor. Police are investigating the case, but no charges have been filed.

"Based upon our knowledge of the incident . . . we determined that this particular vendor owned a venue that perhaps wasn't being properly monitored," Muci said Thursday.

"We felt that for the safety of our students, it was in our students' best interest to stop doing business with this vendor."

Moonwalks For Fun Inc., owned by Duane Zogleman, holds licenses for the equipment used by Pure Entertainment.

Zogleman confirmed Thursday that he also does business as Affordable Moonwalks and Kansas Inflatables. Only Moonwalks For Fun is licensed to operate amusement rides as required by a city ordinance, according to documents obtained by The Eagle.

Zogleman said Thursday that he was unaware of the school district directive, which was issued March 24 to principals, secretaries and PTO and site council representatives.

"Arrangements made for future use of Affordable Moonwalks, Moonwalks For Fun, or Kansas Inflatable's, must be canceled," the memo said.

Zogleman said his removal from the district's vendor list is unfair, and he plans to ask district officials to explain the decision.

"Honestly I don't know why, because we have never ever had an incident with the Wichita public schools," Zogleman said.

Last week Wichita police issued a cease-and-desist order to Moonwalks For Fun, saying its rides were not properly inspected and that its license was invalid. The business is appealing the order. Zogleman said at least 21 rides have since been inspected by an independent, certified inspector.

"We are doing everything we need to do, and we've always been safe," Zogleman said. "It's one thing (for Wichita schools) to say they're not going to rent inflatables at all. But to just take me off the list, that's not right."

Muci said the move was "an internal decision," adding that the district can terminate agreements with outside vendors at its discretion.

"There are other types of events and activities that we have eliminated over the years," including fireworks and party buses, because of safety concerns, Muci said.

The district has no immediate plans to forbid inflatables altogether at school functions, he said. "But we'll be looking at issues of certification and . . . supervision," he said. "Can they be placed in a district facility that would allow for safe usage? Those are some of the questions we'll be asking."

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