Bouncy castle death trial: Operating instructions were 'destroyed in fire'

The operating instructions for a bouncy castle that blew away, killing a little girl inside it, were destroyed in an arson attack on a caravan, a fairground worker told a court.

Seven-year-old Summer Grant died in hospital after she was rescued from the inflatable at an Easter Fair in Harlow, Essex, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Fairground worker William Thurston, 29, and his wife Shelby Thurston, 26, both deny manslaughter by gross negligence and a health and safety offence following the incident on March 26 2016.

Bouncy castle court case
Fairground workers Shelby Thurston, 26, and William Thurston, 29, both deny manslaughter and a health and safety offence. (Joe Giddens/ PA)

Shelby Thurston, giving evidence, said her family had worked in the fairground industry for "generations" and that she started working for her father aged 16 or 17.

She said her father, Billy Searle, bought the bouncy castle, described as a circus super dome, in 2014.

She said she accompanied him to collect it and that they both had a day of training, but that the operating instructions were destroyed in a subsequent fire.

She said her parents were victims of an arson attack on their caravan at a show in Jersey in the Channel Islands in 2015.

"Someone didn't like the fairground being on that event," she said. "Some youths set alight a gas bottle.

"They had turned it on full then lit a rag to the gas bottle and rolled it under the caravan that my parents and sisters were staying in.

"If my mum hadn't woken up and seen the flames who knows what would have happened?

"It was pushed under where my sister was sleeping and where a lot of the paperwork was kept."

She said her father managed to salvage one extract, a certificate of safety which he had emailed to the Showmen's Guild, but that "apart from that the operating instructions were destroyed in a fire".

Thurston, who met her husband at a wedding when she was aged 17, had told police that the bouncy castle was hers but said in court that it was her father's.

"I was operating the dome without my father's present and after the incident that happened, when I was arrested it began to dawn on me that I may get my father into trouble," she said.

"I was in custody for a long time, 20 hours maybe, so I told the police that he had gifted it to me so I would be the person taking immediate responsibility.

"I thought that he would get in a lot of trouble and I wanted to protect him."

Asked why she thought her father may get in trouble, she replied: "Because he wasn't there operating with me."

Prosecutors say that the Thurstons, of Whitecross Road, Wilburton, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, failed to ensure that the bouncy castle was "adequately anchored" to the ground and failed to monitor weather conditions to ensure it was safe to use.

Summer, from Norwich, had been at the fair with her father Lee Grant and other family members.

The trial continues.

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