By Mike Linn: CNJ News Editor
About 10 young girls went to the emergency room Thursday night after falling from atop a 28-foot-high slide at an end-of-the-year softball party at Spencer Park.
Parents of the children — all under 8 and members of the Clovis Girls Athletic Association (CGAA) — were in the emergency room at Plains Regional Medical Center. They said the worst injuries were a possible broken collar bone and a possible fractured ankle.
An official at PRMC — where parents in the emergency room comforted children in wheel chairs and held ice packs to their injured areas — said all of the young girls had been treated, but declined to give specifics.
“We tried to have a party for the kids … we’re out here for the kids, then to have this happen is unbelievable. I hope the kids are OK,” said Robert Tyler, CGAA president.
The incident happened about 6:40 p.m., when witnesses said children were weighted too far to one side of the slide, which was inflated with air. Witnesses said the “balloon slide” came crashing down amid an array of frightened onlookers.
“A lot of the kids who just saw it happen were crying,” Tyler said.
Not long after, at least two ambulances arrived on the scene to take girls to the hospital, officials with the Clovis Fire Department said.
William Salazar didn’t see the slide fall, but said he saw the aftermath, which included his 8-year-old daughter lying on the ground unconscious.
“Most of the kids just jumped up, and then I saw Haleigh and said ‘oh my God,’” Salazar said. “Anytime children are involved safety comes first and it was overlooked today.”
Tyler and many of the parents said the slide was not tied to the ground by staff for Champion Fundraisers, a local group that specializes in outdoors games for children.
Tyler said he and a few parents asked employees working for Champion Fundraisers if the slide should be tied and stabilized. An employee with the company said since there were no strong winds, tying down the slide was not necessary.
Morris Sharp, who said he was filling in for Champion Fundraiser owner Larry Sprague who was in Lubbock, said the slide fell because there were too many children on it at one time.
Sharp said he attempted to get parents to limit the number of children on the slide at once to no avail.
“I know they’re going to try to blame this on Larry but it’s not his fault. There’s only supposed to be two or three children on it at a time, but there was more like 10 or 15. The flip could have been prevented by controlling the amount of kids on (the balloon slide),” Sharp said.
Sharp said even if the balloon slide was tied down it still would have fallen over. He said he’s worked the slide about 50 times and it’s the first time he’s seen it fall.