Strange But True – Has Anyone Been Killed by an Inflatable Slide?

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    As an amusement park injury lawyer, I have handled many amusement park and recreational device accident cases. Nonetheless, I continue to be shocked by the degree of brazen disrespect and disregard for consumer safety which is present in many of these avoidable, greed-fueled disasters.  One of the more recent and appalling cases involves a Pennsylvania man, who died from his injuries after being crushed by an inflatable slide.

    Man Killed After Slide Collapses at Cleveland Indians Game

    On June 12, 2012, the Cleveland Indians were playing at Progressive Field.  But what should have been a fun-filled summer afternoon would end in horrific tragedy, and a subsequent legal battle.

    54-year-old Douglas Johnson of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, was walking down a sidewalk near an inflatable slide that had been set up for a “Kids Fun Day” event prior to the game.  The massive rubber slide weighed over 400 pounds and stood at a height of 25 feet.  No sooner had Johnson heard screams of terror coming from the direction of the slide when he was crushed by its rapid collapse.

    Johnson’s friend David Brown was also pinned beneath the mass of rubber, but was able to free himself.  Johnson suffered more extensive injuries, including bloody scrapes, broken bones, and back pains.  He was freed from the slide wreckage by team medical personnel, and was admitted to a hospital for treatment.

    Two days later, Johnson was discharged.

    On the morning of June 20th, he collapsed in his home and was pronounced dead at the scene within hours.  Coroners determined Johnson had died from a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) in one of his lungs.  The clot was caused by blunt force trauma as the slide struck him with hundreds of pounds of weight.

    Grieving Family Sues for Slide Accident

    After his death, Johnson’s grieving widow filed a lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians, Progressive Insurance, Gateway Plaza (where the accident occurred), National Pastime Sports (the slide’s owner), and Scherba Industries (the slide’s manufacturer).

    Investigations determined that National Pastime Sports failed to properly secure the slide, causing it to topple.  The slide’s great weight required ballast of at least 250 pounds – but the only ballast used was a 55-gallon drum of water, and a handful of sandbags.

    The safety violations continue.  At least half a dozen children were huddled atop one corner of the slide when it fell over, even though regulations supposedly capped the amount of riders at just two or three.  Fortunately, none of the children were injured; but unfortunately, their collective weight may have contributed to the disaster.

    Following the accident, the Ohio Department of Agriculture cited National Pastime Sports for dangerous and negligent slide operation. Manufacturer Scherba Industries was charged with failing to provide the necessary warnings and instructions for setting up the slide, though the company denies any error.

    Indians Director of Communication Curtis Danburg wrote, “It is our position that the Cleveland Indians… are not liable for Mr. Johnson’s death, and that legal responsibility, if any, rests with other parties to the lawsuit.”

    The case ultimately settled out of court.

    As this particular case demonstrates, amusement devices are not automatically “harmless” simply because they are inflatable. Inflatable accidents have the power to permanently change or even take away the lives of innocent, trusting people. The sacrifice of a human life is never worth saving money, yet these reckless actions continue to cause tragedy.

    At The Reiff Law Firm, our personal injury law firm works around-the-clock protecting the rights of our clients. We strive to bring change to the amusement ride industry so that stricter safety rules and regulations are implemented in the interest of passenger safety.

    If you or someone you love was hurt in an inflatable device accident, call (215) 709-6940 to arrange your free, confidential legal consultation today.

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