Children Hurt as Waterspout Uproots Bounce House: Police

Memorial Day fun turned into a holiday nightmare on Fort Lauderdale Beach when a waterspout turned tornado launched a bounce house into the air.

Several children were injured when the inflatable bounce house they were playing in at 801 Seabreeze Avenue was sent flying across a parking lot and into a roadway, Fort Lauderdale police said.

Shamoya Ferguson was one of three kids inside. She was left with a huge bruise on her forehead that would keep her in the hospital overnight.

"I was in the bounce house and a tornado while I was in the bounce house and I flew up and dropped," the 6-year-old said.

Sunbathers watched as the waterspout came ashore, turned into an EF-0 tornado and sent the bounce house spinning, then lifted it above the palm trees.

"I was thinking I was about to die," said 5-year old Shadaja Bryant, who was left with a broken arm after the violent ride. "I was in the bounce house and then it flew while I was in there, then I fell in the dirt."

Bryant's father Ryan Howard said he felt helpless.

"I was crying all the way there and from the time I saw the bounce house to the hospital I was crying, I was shaken real bad," Howard said. "I thought it was safe."

Witnesses described a frightening scene.

"Everyone was screaming, 'Oh my God, Oh my God.' And then everyone started to run," said Sophia Fuller. "It was coming from in the water and then it was coming to where we were sitting."

Then it made a hard turn and headed for a bounce house. Moments later children started to drop from the sky.

"It was like spinning around, broke the basketball goal, it broke the light poles. It kept spinning and that's when the little girl fell on the concrete," said Jammelia Wray.

A Memorial Day tradition for Sophia Fuller and Jammelia Wray ended with a family gathering at Broward Health Medical Center.

Two family members, 6-year-old Shamoya who goes by Sugar and her 11-year-old step brother AJ were seriously injured when they plummeted from the bounce house from 20 feet in the air.

"They just hit the sand," said Fuller, the children's aunt.

"She was in shock, she couldn't talk. She was just screaming. Her mouth was bloody," added Wray, who is their cousin. "My other little cousin's mouth was bloody. He was just laying there. He was shaking."

"Her neck, they had to put a neck brace on her and my nephew they had to wrap him up in plastic," Fuller said.

Witnesses said police cut through the bounce house when it stopped on the street to make sure no children were still inside.

"These bounce houses are permitted. It's an incident, an act of mother nature that couldn't be prevented," said Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Deanna Greenlaw.

The children were all transported to Broward Health Medical Center.

According to the National Weather Service, the waterspout was classified as an EF-0 tornado, which can have winds between 65 and 85 miles per hour. Waterspouts are called tornadoes when they cross onto land. 

Three children were injured in a similar bounce house incident last May in upstate New York. Two boys fell about 20 feet when a strong wind swept their backyard bounce house into the air.

One of the children fell into the street, while a second child fell into an apartment building parking lot.

Experts generally advise against setting up bounce houses up on soft ground, and recommend that the spikes anchoring the bounce house should be made of durable material and be at least nine inches long. Bigger, more durable stakes are available at hardware stores.

Bounce houses can weigh anywhere from 200 to 600 pounds.

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