Safety concerns at inflatable moonbounce complex rise after child's death

A Wichita business designed to provide fun for kids was closed Tuesday and will remain closed today after what operators called a tragic accident.

But the owner of one local inflatable ride company says he thinks flimsy regulations and safety standards may have contributed to Monday's fatality at Pure Entertainment, an inflatable moonbounce complex near Kellogg and Tyler.

Certificates of inspection provided to the city and obtained by The Eagle show that rides used by Pure Entertainment were last inspected in February 2009, 8 months before the business opened in October.

A 5-year-old boy died Monday after falling off an inflatable ride and landing on a concrete floor, said Dennis Mauk, deputy director of Sedgwick County EMS.

The boy's name and details of the incident have not been released. Officials at the business did not return repeated phone calls Tuesday.

Chief deputy city attorney Joe Lang said Pure Entertainment has a license to serve alcohol at its address, 8545 W. Irving.

The city issued a portable amusement rides license to Duane Zogleman of Moonwalks for Fun Inc., according to Lang. The application lists a post office box for the business address. Zogleman's son, Jesse Zogleman, is president of Pure Entertainment.

No ride licenses or inspections are tied to the West Irving address, Lang said. "So there's no way we can say what's at that address — nothing specifically," he said.

Inflatable "bounce houses" and other amusement rides have long been an issue for safety advocates. Last summer, after an inflatable slide set up at a Middletown, Ohio, softball tournament flew 40 feet into the air with a boy inside, some local operators of inflatable rides pushed for stricter regulations.

Jay Jones, former managing partner of Celebrations Fun Equipment in Wichita, told The Eagle at the time: "It's not 'if' something will happen, but 'when.' ... This is something that has got to be taken a lot more seriously."

Ruben Hernandez, owner of Party Bounce Moonwalk Rentals in Wichita, said he visited Pure Entertainment about a month ago and saw several things that he did not believe met standards proposed by the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials.

Most notably, he said, was the absence of cushioned mats around the inflatables. Also, he said, several inflatables did not seem to be weighted down or secured properly and were "scooting across the floor, bouncing against walls," he said. "My first thought was, 'This place is not safe.' "

Hernandez didn't tell anyone about his concerns at the time, he said, because "I'm in the business," he said. "I figured people would just think it was sour grapes."

After hearing about Monday's fatality, though, "I feel really bad that I didn't say anything," he said. "I have a kid that's 4, and it just tore me apart all day."

A Wichita city ordinance requires portable amusement ride companies to maintain at least $1 million worth of insurance, pay a yearly license fee, and have their rides checked by an independently certified inspector.

City records show that Moonwalks for Fun paid the fee and carries the required insurance. Thirty-eight certificates of inspection are on file for rides operated by Moonwalks for Fun. Inspections are of the inflatables themselves, however, and don't take into account how they are set up in bounce complexes or outside.

A signature on the certificates is illegible, and the inspector's name is not available elsewhere in the records obtained Tuesday.

There is no central warehouse of data regarding amusement ride injuries or deaths. According to partial information collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, since 2005 there have been at least three deaths on inflatable rides and more than 70 injuries requiring hospitalization, ranging from major head trauma to sprained ankles.

Pure Entertainment opened last fall in a tennis center-turned-entertainment hub. It features an adult lounge off the main play area that serves alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, as well as food items. The business offers birthday packages for eight, 16 or 24 children, with each party supervised by a "party coach."

It is unclear whether an employee was supervising play when the 5-year-old fell from an inflatable Monday. The boy was there with his parents and grandparents, officials said.

Pure Entertainment requires parents to sign a waiver acknowledging the dangers associated with inflatables and agreeing "to freely assume all risk of personal injury, both known and unknown, even if arising from the negligence of others."

On Tuesday, the metal building was locked and dark. A note on the door read:

"Here at PURE Entertainment it is our biggest policy and responsibility to ensure the safety of our guests. Due to the situation, we are shutting our facility down for the next couple of days. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the child."

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