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Bounce house danger: What parents need to know
Austin, Texas -- It's busy season for bounce houses in Texas. Keep the Texas Department of Insurance Compliance Sticker link handy. You will soon find out why.
From backyard events to birthday parties, they are a big hit with kids and families. But one father said you could be bouncing into trouble.
"It was just a big panic," he said.
He didn't want to be identified because he's still in a legal case with a bounce house operator. But, he said his son's story needs to be shared.
"He was coming down a slide and there was a dilapidated canopy on the top of it, which he got his face hung up in," the father said.
The string flipped his son around, pulled out his front teeth and slammed him back on the slide.
"What our son just kept telling us was, 'There was a string in my mouth,'" the father said. "'I got a string in my mouth.'"
He said a string from a damaged bounce house cover got lodged between two teeth like floss and cut through the roof of his son's mouth.
"Imagine everything just getting ripped out going forward, so you're dealing with teeth now on a 90-degree angle out instead of being vertical going down in the front," the father said.
The family rushed the 4-year-old to the emergency room.
When the chaos was over, the father went back to the Austin-area bounce house to take pictures of the damaged slide.
"It was appalling," he said. "You look back in hindsight and you wonder how this place even stays open. How is it operational under these pretenses?"
KEYE-TV investigated the bounce house for code violations. There were none. In the eyes of Texas, it's in full compliance, following all the rules and regulations. But that's because there aren't many rules and regulations.
"It certainly has been a challenging issue in the last few years with the growth of this industry," said Jerry Hagins with the Texas Department of Insurance.
The Texas Department of Insurance regulates the industry and, by state law, requires only two things for bounce house businesses to operate.
"They're required to have a liability insurance policy and they're required to have annual inspection by a qualified inspector," Hagins said.
But, compliance doesn't mean the inflatables are always maintained and operated safely. Only one inspection a year is required, and businesses are not in fear of a random inspection.
"We don't have inspectors," Hagins said. "The rides are inspected by qualified inspectors that the insurance company contracts with."
Shutting down a bounce house business is nearly impossible in Texas. They get several chances to get into compliance, and if they don't they are referred to the Attorney General's Office, which may or may not take action.
"I see people that set stuff up that have cuts on the side of it," said David Hieronymus, who manages Hop N' Party. "Big cuts. I mean, you just can't do that."
Not only is Hieronymus in compliance, but he is also the vice president of the Texas Inflatable Operators Association. He's lobbying for stronger safety standards in Texas.
"I would love to see any kind of enforcement going on, but TDI (Texas Department of Insurance) unfortunately have no teeth," he said. "All they can do is write a letter."
Hieronymus said he wants the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to take over certifications. He said it's more equipped to handle violations and weed out bad operators.
"I was shocked at the lack of policing," the father said, "The lack of inspection."
Now, this father said he'll probably never take his son to a bounce house again.
"We still don't know exactly how the teeth are going to turn out," the father said, "If the teeth are going to be salvageable."
If you want to see if a bounce house operator is in compliance ask to see their sticker. If the operator doesn't show it to you or don't have one, then you should probably go somewhere else.
You should also look up a bounce house operator to see if it's compliant. The Texas Department of Insurance lists all the bounce house operators and lets you know if they are operating within the law in Texas.
Finally, everyone said parental supervision is the most important thing. Then look for rips or tears in the bounce houses and make sure they are clean.
Now, this father just hopes no one else gets injured.
"Somebody's got to take a step back and say hey how do we regulate this how do we avoid these from happening again because ultimately somebody's going to get killed," he said.
To make sure a bounce house is safe look them up on the Texas Department of insurance.
To watch the full report, click here.