Trampoline parks have exploded in popularity, raising some concerns about safety. (Photo courtesy Flying Squirrel)

Operator of national trampoline park chain reacts to Richmond tragedy

Parks have numerous safety standards, but users must sign an injury waiver

A horrific tragedy at a Richmond trampoline park has led some to characterize the entire industry as inherently unsafe, an assumption operators of Greater Victoria’s only such park call misinformed.

A 46-year-old Victoria father, Jay Greenwood, died Jan. 20 after he fell at Extreme Air Park while performing what police described as “a series of acrobatic manoeuvres.”

“Our hearts go out to the families that have been affected by this tragedy, ” said Luke Schueler, COO of Flying Squirrel, which has numerous trampoline parks, including one in Esquimalt. “Patron safety is our top priority. Any and every injury is a serious matter, and we have mandatory policies and procedures set for all team members to ensure all optimal steps must be followed to mitigate the risk of injury.”

But Schueler acknowledged that, as with any physical recreational activity, there is potential for injury.

The Canadian Pediatric Society issued a a blanket condemnation of trampolines in 2013. They encouraged parents to avoid them for home use by children or teens and say trampolines should not be considered play equipment. As for trampoline parks, the society indicates they “carry serious risk of injury to children.”

Schueler maintains that the Flying Squirrel trampoline parks have taken steps to mitigate that risk as much as possible.

“To educate our customers we have warning signs and guidelines for the safe use of the trampolines. We also have safety videos playing throughout the check-in area and employ court monitors to strictly enforce the rules and monitor patron activity,” he said. Staff quickly eject any patrons who engage in unsafe practices, he added.

Where trouble sometimes occurs is when multiple jumpers are on the same trampoline.

“It’s that double bounce that can really get people hurt,”said Cassie Poirier, manager of Victoria Gymnastics Club.

“We have trampolines in our facility, but only one child is ever allowed on at any time and there is always a certified instructor within arm’s reach. If you have more than one person on the trampoline, especially of different weights, the smaller person can be launched with no control of their movements and injuries are going to happen,” she explained.

While Schueler recognizes the danger of the double bounce effect, he is quick to point out the most dangerous aspect of the occurrence happens when a small child is on the trampoline with a much larger child or adult.

“We have designed our parks so that we have a kiddie section for younger children so they are separated from older youth and adults. And our court monitors make a point of steering smaller children to that area. Some other parks don’t do that, and it can result in a dangerous situation,” he said.

“We also stop people from attempting tricks that are clearly beyond their skill level.”

Flying Squirrel ensures that staff with CPR and defibrillator certification are on site at all times, added Schueler.

The best advice, according to Poirier, is to ensure anyone using a trampoline is properly monitored and that they stay within their skill capabilities. That, she said, applies regardless of whether a person is at the gymnastics club, a trampoline park or using a backyard trampoline.

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