SOUTH GLENS FALLS -- The two boys who were seriously hurt Monday when an inflatable “bounce house” took flight were in stable condition late Tuesday at Albany Medical Center, police said Wednesday.
The exact conditions and names of the boys, ages 5 and 6, have not been released. The two were hurt Monday afternoon when a small inflatable structure lifted off the ground in a gust of wind, tossing the boys out from at least 15 feet in the air. A 10-year-old girl who was also inside fell out from a lower height as the bounce house rose and suffered minor injuries.
South Glens Falls Police Chief Kevin Judd said a boy who landed on a parked car in the complex parking lot before falling to the pavement suffered a serious head injury and remained late Tuesday in a medically induced coma.
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Judd said the boy who landed on Ferry Boulevard suffered two broken arms, a broken jaw, broken facial orbital bone and possible ruptured spleen. Police were not able to get updates on their conditions Wednesday.
The boys live in neighboring apartments in the four-apartment complex at 22 Ferry Blvd.
The police investigation was ongoing Wednesday, but the chief said no criminal charges were expected.
The bounce house comes with six plastic spikes to hold it to the ground, and it appeared they were used when it was set up that day, the chief said.
“It’s just a tragic accident,” he said.
Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said witnesses all said the owner of the structure used the spikes the bounce house came with to secure it to the ground.
“The neighbors all confirmed he staked it. He had his own child playing on it,” he said.
The man’s child was not among the three who were hurt.
It had not been windy earlier that day, and the gust that caused the toy to rise off the ground was unexpectedly strong, so the accident could not have been foreseen, Murphy said.
The 10-by-10 structure flew several hundred yards over a stretch of woods, rising at least 50 feet off the ground before it landed in athletic fields behind Oliver Winch Middle School. A South Glens Falls High School lacrosse player, Emily Boucher, took photos of it as it soared by, and the photos were sought by media outlets from around the world.
The owner of the bounce house is a resident of the apartment complex where the accident happened, and he had inflated the toy earlier Monday for neighborhood children to use. He had owned it for years, and set it up numerous times, a neighbor said.
Police Chief Judd said three of the six plastic stakes, around 6 inches long, were recovered near the apartment complex.
“He said he staked it all to the ground, but it flew over a stretch of the woods so we don’t know where the other stakes went,” Judd said. “I had guys out looking for them (Tuesday) night.”
Police checked for recalls and found none for the model of toy involved, according to the chief.
The structure did not have a roof, so when it got in the air and overturned, wind carried it “like a kite,” Judd explained.
Judd said a lawyer for Little Tikes, the company that made the toy, contacted police Tuesday to arrange to have someone inspect it in police custody.
The company issued a statement late Tuesday saying it planned to investigate what happened. A call to a spokesman for Little Tikes parent company, MGA Entertainment, was not returned Wednesday.
Why exactly the strong gust arose that caused the structure to lift off the ground remained unclear Wednesday. Monday was a warm, breezy day, but no storms were reported. National Weather Service reported a wind gust topping out at 24 mph at Warren County Airport on Monday afternoon.
Some people have questioned whether a tornado-like wind known as a “dust devil” could have been to blame.
A National Weather Service meteorologist, Ian Lee, said dust devils do occur in upstate New York, but he said that was “probably not a likely cause” of the accident. Dust devils are usually small and don’t have significant power, he said.
The spinning of the play structure could have occurred without a tornado or dust devil, Lee said.
“Anything that gets lifted in the air can spin because of turbulence,” he said.
The accident has generated media attention around the world, in part because of Boucher’s photos. The mother of the girl who fell out and suffered minor injuries said her family has been approached by national television shows and other national media wanting to interview the girl. The family has refused interview requests as they try to help her through the traumatic event.
“I didn’t respond. At this point, enough is enough,” the mother said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 18 media outlets in the U.S. and Europe had agreed to purchase the rights to Boucher’s photo at $250 apiece, with Boucher’s family pledging to donate all of the proceeds to the boys’ families.