I cringe whenever I see children playing on a trampoline in the yard of someone’s home. The sounds of their laughter mock the ever present danger that lurks on such devices when used improperly. The homeowners think that they are providing a fun and safe environment for their children — if only they knew what can happen when something goes wrong on a trampoline. Why do I still cringe even today? Well, it’s because I remember Jarred. Seven years ago, Jarred Jevon Smith flew to Jamaica to attend the wedding of college friends at a Sandals resort. What should have been a joyous occasion providing a lifetime of happy memories ended in nightmare. Jarred left his home in Erie, PA a healthy and vibrant 26 year old man with a future and a smile that could light up a room. He returned a quadriplegic needing a ventilator to breathe. Jarred spent the last 8 months of his life a prisoner in his own body all because a premises owner provided a trampoline for its guests, didn’t follow the manufacturer’s instructions and didn’t care about the consequences. Sandals had purchased an Aqua Jump – a water trampoline meant to be used in an area where the water depth was at least 10 feet. The manufacturer clearly warned the owner that users had to be instructed in the proper use of the device, limit the amount of people to use it at one time, to wear personal flotation devices and to have the device situated in an area free from obstructions. A life guard was supposed to present whenever the water trampoline was in use. Sandals personnel carelessly disregarded these instructions. The water trampoline was placed in a designated swimming area where the depth was approximately 5 feet and nowhere near the minimum 10 feet called for by the manufacturer. Take a look at how shallow the water is around the water trampoline Sandals, in Complete Disregard for its duty to ensure a reasonably safe environment for its guests:
- Hotel guests were not told of the dangers of using this device.
- Hotel guests were not instructed in how to use the water trampoline safely
- Hotel guests were not informed that the water trampoline was installed in water well below the minimum depth required for safe use.
The manufacturer of the Aqua Jump provided explicit warnings that misuse of the device can cause spinal cord injury or death
- Those warnings were never given to the hotel guests
On the morning of July 15, 2006 – the day of the wedding, Jarred and a friend swam out to the water trampoline. They started jumping. Jarred was propelled off of the device head first into the water. He struck his head on the sea floor.
- Jarred did not lose consciousness
- He was alert and coherent
- Sadly, Jarred sustained a C4-C5 Flexion Distraction Injury
This is what a similar injury looks like on MRI Jarred was instantly rendered quadriplegic The terror and realization of what had happened was overwhelming. Jarred’s friend and another swimmer pulled him out of the water to prevent him from drowning. Jarred was taken to a series of hospitals on the island. Only heroic measures from Jamaican emergency medical personnel kept Jarred from dying that day. Sandals covered all of Jarred’s medical expenses on the island and arranged for his flight home with medical personnel on board. Nevertheless, the damage had been done. Jarred lived the last eight months of his life confined to a bed needing a ventilator to breathe. He wanted very much to go home and resume his life. Jarred fought valiantly to get off of the ventilator, but he took a rapid turn for the worse when he developed pneumonia. Jarred had overcome many obstacles in his life. He was raised by his mother and had a biological father who abandoned him at birth. Jarred became a two sport letterman in High School and graduated Penn State with a degree in accounting. He was a role model for his twin middle school aged nephews. Tragically, pneumonia was one obstacle that Jarred could not overcome. Jarred passed away on March 21, 2007. Sandals was ultimately held accountable for its role in causing Jarred’s thoroughly preventable catastrophic injuries and ultimate death. No suit was brought against the manufacturer of the water trampoline. The manufacturer had done nothing wrong. I have seen water trampolines installed in lakes on the property of summer camps. These camps have taken the instructions to heart and made sure that the devices are installed in deep water. The safety precautions are followed. Unfortunately, when it comes to land trampolines, the manufacturer’s warnings are often ignored. Too often, I see multiple jumpers on the trampoline at once. “Double jumping” causes users to lose balance and fall The surface of the trampoline becomes hard and unyielding with double jumping. Kids and adults can suffer spinal cord injuries or fractures as a result of a fall on a trampoline. Dangers are not limited to backyard trampolines as this investigation by a CBS affiliate in Chicago revealed in 2011. So, the next time you see a trampoline and want to use it or allow your child to use it, please stop, think and remember Jarred Smith.