Bounce houses pose dangers and cause injuries that Florida officials don't track

TAMPA - They are a lot fun for kids, but that good time in a bounce house can turn tragic quickly.  Nationwide, there have been thousands of injuries and several deaths.  
 
You may have seen video shot by parents of bounce houses being lifted by winds and flying though the air or crashing into buildings.
 
In a special ABC Action News I-Team Investigation, we have uncovered those who could be making sure bounce houses are safe aren't doing anything at all.
 
"I felt like I was going to die," said Juaquin Vigil of Colorado, as he described what it felt like when a bounce house started to collapse around him.

Juaquin described what he was going through as all the other kids at the birthday party began to run out of the bounce house.

"I tried climbing right back up and kept trying and trying but it just all collapsed on me," he said.

Juaquin's Mom, Darlene Herrara, was watching all of this unfold in front of her.

"I was panicking when I didn't see him," she said.

Darlene added, "It collapsed down and I somehow picked it up and I saw a foot. "
 
Meanwhile, Juaquin felt the weight of the collapsed inflatable around him. "I couldn't breathe. I saw black, I saw red, and that's when my mom pulled me by the leg."
 
Darlene described her son as grey and gasping for breath just after she pulled him out.

She tried reporting the incident so other children wouldn't be harmed. But that's when Darlene discovered that her state of Colorado doesn't regulate bounce houses.  And this incident is one of many.

For Agit Badouria's son, Ishon, his fractured leg simply happened while playing in a bounce house in Tampa.
 
Ishon says he jumped from a ladder on a blow up castle, expecting a soft landing.  "It was painful," said Ishon, who was in a cast for 10 weeks.
 
"As you know these can take a long time to heal," explained Dr. David Siambanes of St.Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa.  
 
The pediatric orthopedic surgeon says Ishon will be fine but he sees injuries from bounce houses several times a week.
 
"They are never in the bounce house alone so we get a lot of injuries where the kids are colliding." Siambanes adds, "They can range from a simple bruise, we see a lot of ankle sprains, we see a lot of broken bones believe it or not."
 
Badouria did not try to report his son's injury, but was surprised to learn that Florida doesn't track injuries or regulate the bounce house business in any way.  

"There has to be some oversight to make sure kids are safe." he said.
 
The Consumer Product Safety Commission does track injuries, reporting more than 30,000 from bounce houses over a five year period nationally.
 
The I-Team also contacted the State of Florida to find out how many of these bounce house businesses are operating and found no one keeps track of the numbers.
 
While the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspects mechanical rides, state statute 616.242 makes bounce houses and inflatable rides exempt.
 
Also unregulated is anyone in the public buying and setting up the blow up rides.  We found bounce houses for sale in the Tampa Bay area on Craig's list recently for as little as $150.

After owning and operating Tampa-based Action Promos and Events for nine years. Jeff Pastorini says he feels regulations aren't necessary as long as you are dealing with a responsible business.

He showed us some of the safety equipment he uses to keep his inflatable's anchored down.

"This is a nice secure fifty to sixty pounds," he said, referring to one of the many heavy duty sandbags he has attached to a blow up ride in his parking lot.
 
He says his bounce houses are always tied down to fences or buildings as well as having weights attached so the winds won't blow them away.  

He also claims they will assess all rides at fifteen miles an hour and shut them down, if it appears unsafe.

"There's no sandbag or stake that is really going to hold up to a micro burst," says Pastorini.
 
He adds that the other important safeguard you should look for is supervision.

"We just feel like it's important that we have someone on the ground should there be a weather issue, or any other kind of issue."  

Pastorini went on to say, "Would you leave five kids in your living room unsupervised? I wouldn't. So definitely not on an inflatable where they can hurl, jump, and do all kinds of stuff like that. It's just not safe."
 
Guy LaLonde of Lakeland Moonwalk has some other advice. "Use a licensed and insured company that is reputable."  

LaLonde goes on to say the bounce house should be set up on a smooth and grassy area with all sides secured.
 
But some families think the state should be involved and make sure not just anyone can go into business without training or experience.

Juaquin's mom feels her son may not have made it out, if she hadn't been there.

"I hate to think what would happen if he had been in there a minute or two longer. That scares me, terrifies me," she added.

The I-Team discovered 25 other states do have

regulations for bounce houses at parks and carnivals. And 16 states regulate companies that rent them. It's still not clear if or when Florida will join the list.

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