File picture: Pixabay

Norfolk - A little girl was killed when an inflatable beach trampoline exploded, flinging her 20ft (about 6 metres) into the air.

Three-year-old Ava-May Littleboy’s family told of their heartbreak on Monday night as they paid tribute to their ‘little angel’.

Her mother Chloe Littleboy, 25, was standing close by on Sunday as her daughter was catapulted into the sand on Gorleston beach, Norfolk, by the air-filled trampoline – which had been standing in hot sun for hours.

One witness told how strangers tried in vain to catch Ava-May before she crashed down to the ground. Beach-goers said her mother screamed in terror and could only watch as a lifeguard and paramedics tried to revive her.

Ava-May, from Somersham, Suffolk, reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest and died later in James Paget Hospital, Norfolk.

On Monday, as an MP called for a ban on bouncy castles, Ava-May’s aunts led tributes.

One, Laura Reid, 28, wrote on Facebook: "I will love you always and forever. Sleep tight my little angel. My everything my princess! Until I see you again my heart is broken." Another aunt, Abbie Littleboy, 21, wrote on the JustGiving fundraising website: "Her family would like to kindly ask for donations to help fund a child’s bench in memory of Ava that will be put in her local park of Somersham, Suffolk."

Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are investigating why the trampoline ‘exploded’.

Gorleston beach, three miles from Great Yarmouth, was packed with families enjoying the 23C temperatures.

Flowers and teddies were on Monday being laid at the scene. A 91-year-old man who saw what happened said: "She shot way up into the air – easily more than 20ft – and landed in the sand. The mother ran up screaming and crying for help. People acted together. The explosion was like a big gun. I was in the Navy and I can tell you it was an enormous bang."

Zoe Dye, 32, who was 60ft (about 18 metres) away with her 11-year-old daughter Tiffany, added: "There were screams from everyone on the beach and it was almost like slow motion."

"When the little girl was in the air, no one could have done anything. People jumped up to try and catch her but she just dropped."

Superintendent Roger Wiltshire, from Norfolk Police, said: "My understanding is that the mother had a conversation with the stall-holder and the child went on the equipment. The trampoline was designed just for one person to use and she was the only person there at the time.

"As far as I understand her mother was watching nearby. I am a dad myself and I cannot imagine what the family are going through. You go to a place like Gorleston for a day out and then this happens"

The trampoline was one of several inflatable rides in an area of the beach called Bounce About.

Attraction owner Curt Johnson, 47, who was not present at the time, speculated yesterday that the heat caused the inflatable to explode. He said: "We are in complete shock and send our deepest condolences to the family. We are in bits and totally devastated. We can’t sleep, can’t eat and feel sick to the core."

Ava-May is believed to have attended Bramford Playgroup, near Ipswich, which closed early on Monday as staff and children came to terms with her loss.

Tracie Heffer, manager of Bramford and District Social Club, said: "It’s a terrible tragedy. It’s a very close community."

Ava-May’s death follows the jailing last month of a couple whose failure to properly tie down a bouncy castle in high winds led to the death of seven-year-old Summer Grant.

On Monday Summer’s grandmother Rachel Chamberlain said: "I hoped with all my heart that this would never happen again. Things must change."

"My heart bleeds for this family. Devastating."

Tory MP Robert Halfon, whose Harlow constituency in Essex is where Summer was killed in 2016, tweeted: "After two horrific tragedies, Government need to look at update of regulations and inspection regime and consider a temporary ban on bouncy castles in public areas until we can be sure that they are safe.

"There have been a number of injuries and fatalities over the last few years and the regulations haven’t been updated for an incredibly long time."

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said of Ava-May: "It is a terrible accident and a tragic loss of life. HSE are looking into it – they are the right people to do so. We need to wait for that investigation to be completed."