Toddler, 2, dies after bouncy castle carried away by strong wind

Family photo of Karl, Bodhi and Cristy Naaf. Two-year-old Bodhi Naaf died on April 27, 2024 when the bounce castle he was playing in was suddenly lifted airborne. GoFundMe/Ashley Al-Khouri

A two-year-old toddler from Arizona died after the bouncy castle he was playing in was suddenly lifted airborne and carried away by a gust of wind.

Bodhi Naaf, the young son of Phoenix firefighter Karl Naaf, died from his injuries after being rushed to a local hospital.

Several children were playing in the inflatable castle when “a strong gust of wind sent it airborne into the neighbouring lot,” said the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, calling the incident a “tragic accident.” A second child was hurt but the injuries were non-life-threatening.

“We would like to extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the grieving family,” police added, noting that an investigation into the event is ongoing.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the two-year-old’s parents as they mourn the loss of their son.

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Bodhi’s mother Cristy is currently pregnant with the couple’s second child, who is due to be born on May 31.

“Amidst their sorrow, they face the daunting task of preparing for the arrival of their newborn,” writes fundraiser organizer Ashley Al-Khouri, a friend of the family.

“As a community, we want to offer our support and alleviate the financial burden that accompanies such tragedies. Your donations will help Karl and Cristy focus on grieving their beloved Bodhi while also preparing for the new chapter in their lives.”

The GoFundMe has raised just under US$170,000 as of Thursday morning, far exceeding its US$100,000 goal.

A week before the fatal incident in Phoenix, a similar situation occurred in California. An inflatable trampoline was lifted high in the air by a dust devil, a whirlwind that can cause a strong updraft, and landed in a neighbour’s yard. Thankfully, no one was using the equipment at the time, but the owner said the event left her family shaken.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission called it “very scary incident” in an X post and reminded the public that bouncy castles should be staked and anchored to the ground and should never be used in windy conditions.

“Wind speed should be no more than 15 to 25 miles per hour when using a bounce house,” the agency said. The converts to wind speeds between 24 and 40 km/h.

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The fatal incident occurred on April 27, when wind speeds were measured at nearby Casa Grande municipal airport at 15 mph, 15 minutes before the police were called, according to National Weather Service data. That afternoon, wind speeds mostly hovered between eight and 13 miles per hour.

Police did not specify if the bouncy castle was staked and anchored when it was lifted airborne.

A study published by the American Meteorological Society in 2022 tracked wind-related bouncy castle incidents between 2000 and 2021 and found that such events have caused at least 28 deaths worldwide and caused at least 479 injuries.

The federal government advises Canadians to install and anchor bouncy castles in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and warn they “should not be used in high winds.”

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