Three children were injured on Memorial Day in South Florida when a bounce house flew off the beach and soared high into the air. One of the children, six-year-old Shamoya Ferguson, trapped in the flying bounce house was released from Broward Health Medical Center with a big lump on her forehead. She said, “I was thinking that I was about to die,” regarding her ordeal as she described hearing the whistling wind of the tornado, remembered spinning around and hearing screams.
Fort Lauderdale Police and Fire Rescue’s chaplain who was volunteering during the city’s annual Memorial Day celebration said that he saw three children who had been playing inside the bounce house tumble to the ground from a height of 15 to 20 feet. “It was very scary,” he said.
Two other children were released Monday night after being treated for minor injuries, including fractures; and a fourth person was treated on the scene but didn’t need to be transported to the hospital.
It appears that a waterspout headed to shore as a fine spray of water and just seconds later, the bounce house was lifted at least 50 feet into the air. It somersaulted over the beach parking lot, over four lanes of traffic on State Road A1A before it landed on the other side of the busy highway.
One bystander reported, “There was no indication a waterspout was forming. It was fast and furious. There was swirling sand, and then, boom, it was over.” On a video taken by an onlooker, screams could be heard which alerted the crowd that there were children in the bounce house.
A waterspout, which technically becomes a tornado once ashore, was estimated to be a maximum of 10 yards wide with wind speeds of about 65 to 85 mph. It covered a maximum distance of 100 yards, said forecaster Chuck Caracozza. Medical professionals at the site agreed that the children were very lucky to escape with only minor injuries and the incident could have been a lot worse if more children had been playing inside.