London - A father screamed ‘my daughter’s in there’ when a bouncy castle was swept 50ft (15 metres) in the air by a gust of wind.
Summer Grant, seven, died after the inflatable cartwheeled down a hill and smashed into a tree, a court heard on Tuesday.
She was visiting the Easter fair in Harlow, Essex, with her sister Lily, then five.
The owners of the bouncy castle – William Thurston, 29, and his wife Shelby, 26 – are accused of manslaughter by gross negligence in failing to ensure the bouncy castle was properly anchored.
Tracy Ayling, prosecuting, told Chelmsford Crown Court they had also failed to monitor weather conditions to ensure it was safe to use.
Giving evidence, Summer’s father Lee said his mother screamed ‘No’ when the inflatable started to take off.
‘Within seconds, it had blown away and I remember shouting “my daughter is on that bouncy castle”,’ he said. ‘I just saw some sort of cable flying in the air and it just blew away.
‘I remember it blowing over some sort of caravan and kept on going over the field. I started running after the bouncy castle down the field.
‘It was 30 to 50ft in the air and just rolling down the field, just rolling and rolling. I think it hit a tree. At the end of the field, it came to a halt when it hit the fence. I couldn’t find her.
‘I couldn’t find the entrance to the bouncy castle as it had deflated by the time it reached the end.’
The court heard that someone else managed to get into the ‘circus superdome’ to bring Summer out.
William Thurston was among the first at the scene and said the child appeared ‘very badly injured and struggling to breathe’.
Health and safety guidelines state inflatables should not be used when wind speeds are over 19mph. But there was a yellow weather warning in place on March 26, 2016, the day of the fair at Harlow Town Park.
Winds brought by Storm Katie were 35-40mph according to a meteorologist’s report.
Shelby Thurston claimed a strong gust hit ‘like a tornado freak wind’ as she was preparing to close the fun fair because of the conditions. In a police interview she claimed she was addicted to the Met Office’s weather warning app because her business relied on it. But a meteorologist confirmed that wind speeds and gusts had increased as the day had gone on, adding: ‘If the app was working, with signal, the warning would have been displayed.’
Prosecutors also claim that Thurston’s Fun Fair had operated before in adverse weather.
A document recovered from the defendants read: ‘Rain, sleet, snow, horrible – £300.’
The castle, which cost £3 a child for ten minutes, did not conform to safety standards because it had ‘an insufficient number of ground anchorage points’. An inspection of the dome after the tragedy found problems with the exit signage and the location of the pump.
‘Its annual examination had failed to identify its shortfall in the anchorage points and had failed to show the faults in the electrical wiring,’ said Miss Ayling.
Describing the incident, the QC told the court: ‘The weather was cold and windy. Summer was playing in a bouncy castle which was one of the fair’s attractions.
‘It blew away from its mooring, bounced 300 metres down a hill and, having hit a tree, it came to rest. Summer was rescued from within the bouncy castle. She was badly injured, she was taken to hospital where she died from her injuries.’
Summer’s mother, Cara Blackie, who lives in Norwich, sat in the public gallery yesterday.
Kevin Smith, who was at the fair with his daughter Lola, told the court: ‘She wanted to go on a slide but it was wet. I saw them starting to deflate it and I said “No”.
‘It really started to get windy. There were railings in front of one of the rides that just blew over.
‘We started to go to another dome one, we didn’t get to it. There was a gust of wind, the dome just started to move and it just went down a hill.’
As well as the manslaughter charge, Shelby Thurston denies a count under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to anchor the inflatable and monitor the weather conditions.
Her husband is charged with failure to discharge his duties under the same act.
The couple, from Wilburton in Cambridgeshire, own three bouncy castles and a water ride. The trial continues.