A pregnant woman and two other adults were injured in New Jersey Monday afternoon when a large inflatable bounce house was blown over, according to local media.
The bounce house was among many set up for a small carnival in a parking lot on Summer Avenue in Lakewood, a township in Ocean County. The fun was soon interrupted around 4 p.m. EDT, however, when the structure was blown over and injured three people, according to the Lakewood Police Department. Video of the parking lot shows the bounce house was an inflatable rock climbing wall.
The three people who were injured included one pregnant woman that suffered abdominal pain and two other adults who suffered head injuries and were unconscious, Lakewood Police Captain Thomas Langenberger told local media. The two people with head injuries were taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. No children were reported to have been injured in the incident.
“At this time, the injured parties are stable but still under medical care,” Investigations Commander of the Lakewood Police Department Captain Gregory Staffordsmith told AccuWeather via email.
Wind gusts of 10 and 12 mph were reported between noon and 4 p.m., according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines, though a site 5 miles away reported wind gusts near 20 mph. He added that the heating of the pavement could have also contributed.
“If this bounce house was in a parking lot, the heating of the pavement can create its own micro-climate and produce a sudden gust of wind,” Kines said. “Considering the overall weather pattern, that seems like the most likely scenario.”
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) advises that bounce houses not be used when locally observed wind gusts reach 25 mph or in sustained winds of 15 mph. However, an incident during less intense wind speeds is not unheard of.
A study published in 2022 documented 132 cases of wind-related bounce house incidents worldwide for the years 2000-2021 that caused 479 injuries and at least 28 deaths. Of the 85 incidents that the researchers were able to obtain local wind information, 22% of recorded bounce house incidents occurred when wind speeds, both sustained and gusts, were between 0 and 15 mph — the lowest threshold set by ASMT. Additionally, 33% of incidents occurred with reported wind gusts under 20 mph, and 51% of incidents occurred when reported wind gusts were under 25 mph.
In the data collected by the study, some of the lowest wind speeds associated with an incident in the U.S. fell at or under 10 mph.
“The vast majority of non-convective wind damage reports, injuries and deaths in the United States are associated with subsevere wind speeds, and greater than one-quarter of reports, injuries, and deaths are associated with winds below wind advisory thresholds. Our results are similar,” the study said. “This circumstance places responsibility on the regulation of bounce house use.”
Fewer than half of U.S. states have explicit statutes and regulations for bounce house use, most of which don’t explicitly state weather and wind conditions required to safely use the inflatable, according to the study.
New Jersey law regulates the use of inflatables such as bounce houses and that a bounce house “exposed to wind or storm shall not be operated under dangerous weather conditions except to release or discharge riders.” As for the wind conditions, § 5:14A-9.6 of the New Jersey Administrative Code places the wind velocity threshold in the hands of the manufacturer.
While the law also requires operators and assistants to be aware of weather conditions, including wind, rain, lightning and any approaching storm, Kines said that a sudden gust of wind created by a microclimate, if that was the case, would be more challenging to predict.
The incident Monday likely fell under a non-convective mesoscale incident, or weather that wasn’t prompted by a thunderstorm, though came close to falling under the dust devil category, Kines said. In the data collected by the study, less than 1% of the incidents fell under the non-convective mesoscale incident category, and 15% fell under the dust devil category.
“Dust devils can form under the same conditions that existed Monday,” Kines said.
Police are still investigating the incident with the assistance of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, according to Stafordsmith.
Produced in association with AccuWeather