Inflatable slide collapse gets court sequel

A council has been sentenced for its part in failing to keep people safe in a giant inflatable slide collapse, despite the slide being operated by another party.

Thames Coromandel District Council authorised JTK Trustee Limited to operate the slide at the Whangamatā Summer Festival in December 2020. A dozen people, most of whom were children, fell from heights of up to 12 metres. A father on the slide, Louwan Van Rooyen, broke both his ankles and has required 11 surgeries since.

In August 2022, JTK Trustee Limited was fined $350,000 and ordered to pay reparations of over $40,000 over the incident. Now, the council has now been ordered to pay reparation to Mr van Rooyen, for its failure to manage a shared risk.

“Over and above the operator’s obvious failures, the council plainly failed to do its due diligence on an operator with a poor safety record,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Paul West.

WorkSafe found JTK applied to the council using an old form which didn’t require confirmation the slide met safety standards. A permit was given three days after JTK applied, without the council doing any of the checks recommended by its own staff.

After the incident expert reports found the slide was electrically unsafe, had air leaks via holes and seams, and poor anchoring.

“Businesses and organisations that consent and permit events and equipment cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for health and safety when things go wrong. Whānau should have the confidence that public events they attend are being run in a safe manner,” says Paul West.

Slide users can keep safe by looking for the AS 3533 label, which should be prominently displayed on inflatable slides from reputable manufacturers, and can ask the supplier or operator about their practices and how it can be used safely.

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