An eight-year-old girl has died when an inflatable castle installed in the Mislata fair, a town of 43,000 inhabitants that borders the municipality of Valencia, overturned on Tuesday, as reported by the Ministry of Health. The attraction was lifted off the ground by very strong gusts of wind around 8.15pm, and some minors were thrown hitting the ground or one of the closest facilities. Nine minors were transferred to various hospitals in Valencia and Manises, four of them with a reserved prognosis and two remained under observation. Two girls, aged five and eight, had serious injuries, especially one of them, the eight-year-old, who unfortunately has died.
Of the minors transferred on Tuesday night from the fair installed on Avenida de Libertad-Miguel Ángel Blanco to hospitals, only one remains hospitalized with a reserved prognosis; “Another, unfortunately, has died,” says the Valencian Ministry of Health.
Noemi, a neighbor of the town, was walking her dog in front of the fair when the accident happened. “I made a video because a lot of wind had gotten up and suddenly I saw how the inflatable lifted from one side and I saw the children in the air,” he explained this Wednesday morning, while showing the video of a few seconds. The images captured how part of the inflatable’s base was lifted violently, much of which crashed into the five-meter-high fence of a nearby trampoline and mattress attraction. Then another fragment of the structure fell shattered to the ground.
At least a dozen children were playing in the attraction when the events occurred. Some fell on the mats and trampolines, according to Noemi’s testimony, but others did not. “The carnies, the parents, all of us who were around here, we started helping and looking for the children in case they had stayed under the tarps. I saw an unconscious girl on the ground. Children scared, crying. It was all tremendous. The police, ambulances and firefighters came immediately and took charge ”, he said.
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Members of the scientific and judicial police inspected the attraction on Wednesday morning. The agents have declined to comment on whether or not it complied with the regulations and, above all, on whether it had all the anchors set correctly. “We are investigating and we have just started,” commented one of them. The National Police has opened an investigation to clarify the causes of the accident and determine the scope of the responsibilities, if any, of the fair’s assembly company.
The Mislata City Council has suspended this Wednesday all planned municipal events, including the Three Kings parade, and has decreed official mourning in the town until Friday. Through a statement, municipal officials have wanted to convey their condolences “to the family and friends of the girl who has lost her life, with only eight years of age.” The Consistory has dedicated a minute of silence at 1:00 p.m. for the death of the little girl. The mayor, Carlos Fernández Bielsa, has been at the forefront of the tribute, which has been joined by several neighbors.
The City Council has made all the administrative documentation on the facility available to the National Police. Some documents that include the annual inspection certificate of the attraction; the final facilities certificate issued by a registered engineer and provided by the company that manages the fair, as required by current regulations; the civil liability insurance, the responsible declaration, the project and the emergency plan. The Consistory ensures that the attraction had the documentation in order.
Several residents of the large and new buildings on Avenida de la Libertad, who look out over the growing open area of the municipality where the fair has been installed this year, have influenced the strong gusts of wind that have occurred this Tuesday, on all from eight o’clock in the afternoon. “The wind always blows here, but yesterday there were gusts that even knocked down my clothes hanging on the balcony, when this does not usually happen”, a woman commented.
On Tuesday there was no warning for winds by the State Meteorological Agency of Spain (Aemet) in the Mislata area, where the threshold for yellow, the lowest level of the three existing, is 70 kilometers per hour, informs Victoria Torres. There is no Aemet station there, but the sensors at the nearby Manises airport detected a streak of 72 kilometers per hour at 20.10. But it was something specific. “There was no warning in the area, the warning threshold was exceeded very punctually at the airport, but the prediction was quite clear,” says José Ángel Núñez, chief of climatology at Aemet in the Valencian Community. Núñez explained the situation to this newspaper: “It was a very quiet day in Valencia, almost spring. It was a deceptive situation, because during the day and early in the afternoon the wind was light to moderate and it exceeded 24 degrees in Valencia. But the forecast is that when the front that was crossing the Peninsula arrived, the situation would give a sudden change with strong or very strong wind in large areas of the territory, as the forecast indicated, and that is what happened ”. The forecast, indeed, warned of “west component wind with strong or very strong gusts in the afternoon in large areas of the community; preferably in the northern third ”. Other areas of the region did have a wind warning active.
Some neighbors have even talked about a whirlwind, mini tornado or blowout. “There is no record,” answers the expert. “There was no convection or storms that favored the formation of a tornado or a blowout, what does happen is that when the wind changes it does so very abruptly, and also with a very gusty and turbulent flow. Within the wind flow at the front, in addition to the horizontal component, ascents and descents usually occur due to the thrust of the front that moves from the west, with very cold and dense air in the rear part of the front pushing intensely to the front. warm air in the front. For this reason, many times in these situations there are not only damages due to the horizontal component of the wind but also to the vertical thrust, which favors the lifting of weaker or little anchored structures ”.
“There is no time for anything”
The president of the Valencia Fair Industrial Association, José Esteban, has ensured that the inflatables of the fairs are anchored to the ground in compliance with the safety regulations, but in windy circumstances like those of this Tuesday, when “in a minute or in two the wind rises strongly, there is no time for anything “, according to statements collected by Efe.
Esteban has indicated that he does not know how the “unfortunate accident” happened in the attraction, whose owner is a partner and friend, since he has not been able to speak with him. “When you know that air is coming, you are prepared and do everything possible – so that nothing happens – but when this has happened, it is because there was no time,” he added.
With the death of the eight-year-old girl in Mislata, the number of minors killed in these types of attractions in the last five years in Spain rises to three. The last two fatalities took place in 2017 and were for various reasons.
In February of that year, a four-year-old boy died who was injured after another minor fell on him while playing on an inflatable in the Sevillian town of La Rinconada. Three months later, in May, an attraction of this type installed in a restaurant in Caldes de Malavella (Girona) exploded. The minors who were in it were fired at a distance of between 10 and 20 meters. A six-year-old girl died, while six other children were injured. The investigation concluded that the castle was of poor quality and was poorly anchored to the ground: two people were sentenced for reckless homicide to one year in jail and a 5,400 euro fine.
Wind is usually the main cause of accidents in bouncy castles. The most serious accident in the world took place in Australia just a few weeks ago, on December 16, when a strong gust of wind raised a castle in a Tasmanian school, causing the death of six children. In 2014, three accidents of this type were registered in Spain.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.