It was supposed to be a happy occasion. A woman from the Sunshine State organized an elaborate birthday party for her young daughter, complete with a DJ and bounce house. But the party mood suddenly turned sour when multiple toddlers found themselves in grave danger – and two of them ended up in hospital. Then the mom looked at CCTV footage and discovered something alarming.
Deborah Romero is a mother from Port St. Lucie, Florida, and in May 2017 she decided to throw a party for her daughter’s birthday. What’s more, although her little girl was only going to be turning one, Romero pulled out all the stops to keep the young partygoers and their parents entertained.
To start with, Romero made a huge effort with the party decorations. She dressed up the garden furniture with white tablecloths, hung bunting on the garden fence and dressed her daughter in an adorable pink tutu. But there was one finishing touch that was sure to wow the crowd even more.
Not wanting to miss a trick, Romero even splashed out on an inflatable bounce house – something that was surely going to provide plenty of fun for all of the younger birthday party guests. At this point, though, Romero had no idea how eventful her daughter’s party would turn out to be.
As the guests subsequently started to arrive, the DJ began entertaining the birthday party crowd. And when the kids saw the plastic bounce house, they rushed to play on it. It was all going so well, then, until something happened that put the children in grave danger.
Once the party was in full swing, Romero noticed something odd. It appeared as though the plastic bounce house had deflated a little. Instinctively, then, she and her fellow parents rushed to it – only to find that their children were trapped by the heavy deflated plastic.
The frightened parents then struggled to free their kids, some of whom were only two or three years old. According to a Today article from May 2017, about 12 children were stuck inside the plastic contraption. It was a hot day, too, and the longer the kids were trapped, the more panicked the parents became.
Eventually, at least, the frantic parents managed to retrieve all of the children, some of whom were understandably traumatized by the terrifying event. Indeed, some of the kids were in tears, and one little boy’s leg was injured when the adults tried to pull him out of the collapsing plastic house.
Once all of the children were safe, though, the parents’ attention turned to finding out what had happened. And because it wasn’t immediately obvious why the bounce house had suddenly lost its air like that, Romero decided to investigate deeper. Then she had a smart idea.
Romero thought to check the CCTV camera that pointed at the side of her house. She had decided to get it installed following a Christmas time incident that saw her outdoor festive lights cut in an act of sabotage. So, not wanting to be caught out again, she took her security to the next level.
Now the deflating bounce house was not only a pretty terrifying incident; it was also incredibly dangerous – sending two of the young party guests to hospital. It was vital, then, that Romero got to the bottom of the incident. And, luckily, the CCTV footage gave her all of the answers she needed.
When Romero rewound the footage to the time of her daughter’s party, she spotted something that appalled her. Indeed, what she saw in the video was so serious that the police became involved and promptly started an investigation.
The CCTV footage shows a man walking into the Romeros’ backyard during the party and tampering with a cable leading to the bounce house. Specifically, he nonchalantly unplugs the cable before sauntering off as if nothing had happened. And what’s almost as troubling is that police recognized the man as someone from the neighborhood.
A representative of Port St. Lucie Police Department, Master Sgt. Frank Sabol, explained more to Today.com. He said that his team investigating the incident “believe that [the man] thinks that he was pulling the plug to the DJ booth, but it didn’t; it pulled the plug to the bounce house.”
The police have since tried to speak to the disgruntled neighbor, but unfortunately the man was not willing to cooperate. In fact, according to an Inside Edition article from May 2017, he even hired a lawyer. The investigation is still ongoing, though, and both the local community and the police are united in their outrage.
“I gotta say this is very irresponsible for somebody to do that,” Sabol said, and it’s a sentiment that the parents at the birthday party certainly share. For instance, the birthday girl’s godfather, Glenn Hunt, spoke out during an interview with Today.com, publicly condemning the grumpy neighbor for his actions.
“I was absolutely appalled that somebody would have the nerve. Don’t take matters into your own hands and cause harm to other individuals, especially children,” he said. Sage advice, especially since studies have shown that bounce houses are dangerous enough – even if nobody secretly tampers with them.
A Washington Post article from July 2017 reveals some startling statistics. Quoting a Consumer Product Safety Commission, the newspaper reported that “82,203 people were injured on inflatables between 2008 and 2013, more than 90 percent of those on moon bounces [bounce houses].”
Not only that, but one study noted that in 2010 a child was injured on a bounce house at an average interval of every 46 minutes. Worse still, in 2016 a seven-year-old British girl died when the bouncy castle on which she was supposed to be having fun got swept away with the wind at a fairground.
And although the children at Romero’s party survived the incident, there’s no doubt that it could have been significantly worse. Still, while the investigation is ongoing, police seem confident that a trespassing charge, at the very least, could be brought against the man in question.