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The trampoline bosses facing jail over health and safety failures at an under-fire Flip Out park goofed about in a safety video after a string of horrific accidents took place at their arena – including 11 people breaking their backs.
The clip shows David Shuttleworth and Matthew Melling, who owned the Chester branch, messing around in the health and safety video in the months after the life-changing injuries to their customers occured.
The two former bosses, both 33, admitted health and safety offences following the series of accidents, which included three people suffered fractured spines in a single day in 2017 after jumping from a 13ft high tower into a foam-filled pit.
The safety video starts with Melling jokingly pulling Shuttleworth back from the camera after he interrupted the talk to shout ‘Flip Out is the best place in the world!’
The men appear to be holding back laughter as they start to explain that landing on the trampolines’ padding could cause serious injuries, and ‘double bouncing’ could cause ‘tremendous pressure’ on the knees.
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The clip is filled with short skits and jokes as the bosses makes light of the potential dangers at the park.
The Daily Mail revealed the local hospital had warned that specialist surgeons were facing unnecessary pressure as a result of the injuries.
Visitors left traumatised by their life-changing injuries have welcomed the threat of prison sentences – and warned that the centres were unsafe.
The safety video makes light of risks such as double and triple flipping into a foam-filled pit – which left people with broken backs – and fighting on the trampolines.
In one skit, two men are seen wrestling after one pulls the other down from climbing up the foam borders of the park.
Shuttleworth and Melling pleaded guilty to health and safety offences when they appeared at Chester Crown Court last month.
The company was dissolved last year, with Flip Out Chester now operated by a different franchisee.
The pair admitted failing to preventing visitors being exposed to risk and could face up to two years behind bars as well as hefty fines when they return to be sentenced.
The charges relate to an investigation into 270 known accidents over a seven-week period between December 2016 and February 2017.
Among those who suffered a fractured spine while jumping off a piece of equipment known as the Tower Jump – described at the time by Shuttleworth and Melling as the largest of its kind in the world – was Liza Jones, 26, from Wrexham.
She was left in ‘most pain I’ve ever suffered’ after leaping from a 13ft high platform into a foam pit at the 40,000 sq ft centre near Ellesmere Port in February 2017, and later launched legal action.
‘I’m glad they’ve faced court action because I could have been left paralysed,’ she told the Mail yesterday.
‘I landed in the way I’d been told to, but I was one of three people who suffered broken backs that day.
‘People visiting these centres may feel they’re safe because they’ve got rules for people to follow, but that’s just not true.
‘The firms that are running them need to learn from this and ensure they’ve got proper health and safety in place.’
Lucy Jones also fell victim to the Tower Jump when she flung herself off the tower in January 2017.
The woman, then 19, had decided to go to the trampoline park with her friends, not knowing it would end with her being rushed to the hospital with a broken back after claiming she lost all feeling in her legs.
Recalling the incident a year later, she said: ‘As I screamed in agony, my friends rushed over to help me. I landed in a seating position, as we’d been told to do.
‘But, when I landed, I felt the worst pain I have ever been through in my whole life. For a while, I couldn’t breathe or feel anything.’
After being taken to hospital, it was revealed that she had fractured vertebra in her spine.
‘Mum and I burst into tears. I was absolutely terrified. The only thing I could think was, ‘Will I ever walk again?,’ she told the Daily Star. ‘I couldn’t believe a girls’ evening out had turned into such a nightmare.’
The terrifying ordeal led to Lucy undergoing a five-hour operation to place metal rods into her back. She then underwent rehabilitation every day in hospital before being discharged five days later.
The dental nurse said it robbed her of experience of being an 18-year-old girl. Lucy said she had ‘so much life ahead of me, but instead I faced a long recovery needing constant physiotherapy’.
In the same year, George Magraw, then 21, from Ellesmere Port, was told he needed months to recover after he also fractured his spine at the Flip Out park, jumping off the same tower structure.
Speaking at the time, George’s brother Phil told Cheshire Live: ‘Either there was insufficient foam in the pit or it’s too old to make sure he has a soft landing.
‘He landed on his bum and it’s shattered a vertebra in his lower back. They gave him an X-ray and said the disk had pretty much disintegrated.
‘George is in a lot of pain and they said after the surgery he will need months to get back to normal or there could be complications.’
The University of Leeds student had undergo gruelling surgery for to replace his shattered vertebrae with a metal disk.
Ceri Jones, then 21, said she heard a sickening ‘crunch’ when her vertebra ‘exploded’ on impact after she leaped from the Tower Jump platform.
Speaking after the accident in February 2017, she said: ‘I heard a ‘crunch’ and I couldn’t move – I was in agony. I was sat in there for 15 minutes before they carried me out.’
Mother-of-four Michelle Conway was left needing stitches after her top lip was ripped away from her nose during an accident at the trampoline park.
Unlike the other victims, Michelle’s accident happened when she entered the free-run area and tried jumping off a wall onto a trampoline that was supposed catapult her over another wall.
‘Instead unfortunately, it propelled me straight into the opposite wall, splitting the base of my nose away from my upper lip,’ Michelle said back in 2017.
‘Why on earth aren’t these walls padded? They are solid hard walls and children are on this ‘free run’ zone. I dread to think how I would have felt if it had been one of my children.
‘My youngest child called for help as there was blood everywhere, I even tried to stay off the white mesh trampoline so as not to stain it.
‘It felt like ages before a member of staff actually turned up to help. There were children all around me and they must have been horrified.
‘I then had to walk to the first aid room which was by the front entrance. I had blood pouring out of my wound and was offered nothing to cover it up whilst I walked through the whole building.’
Michelle said staff at the park told her to hold her lip together with a piece of tissue while her husband drove her to A&E with blood pouring out her mouth.
‘The force was that excessive the split went straight through the skin and I lost my frenulum, which is the piece of skin between the upper lip and gum.’
‘There is a waiver to sign before you go ‘jumping’ which states there is a ‘risk of death’,’ said Michelle.
‘I wonder how many people actually read this? If you thought you were actually going to die jumping on a trampoline would you go willingly to these places and take your children?’
In the first four months the park was open, ambulance crews attended the park on average once a week.
The number of injuries eventually became so severe that medics from the nearby Countess of Chester Hospital called a meeting with the park bosses following a surge in A&E attendances.
Lorraine Burnett, director of operations at The Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust, told the Wrexham Leader in March 2017: ‘In recent weeks we have seen an increase in patients arriving in our accident and emergency department reporting injuries from trampoline activities.
‘Our clinicians have met with local trampoline facilities to develop a link and share information about the types of injuries we are seeing.
‘We are grateful to our emergency department and orthopaedic specialists for taking time out of their already pressurised schedules to support this work.’
A few months later on July 8 fire crews rushed to the park after receiving calls that an 18-year-old had become trapped after dislocating his shoulder in the free-running, parkour area.
Mr Melling had raved that in the first six months of opening the park had ‘almost 2,000 five-star reviews from happy customer’, with a spokesperson for the site adding: ‘We are proud of our safety record but unfortunately accidents do happen.’
Shuttleworth, of Barlaston, Staffordshire, resigned as a director of Flip Out Chester’s then operator FO World Chester Ltd in 2018 while Melling, of Spinningfields, Manchester, quit in 2020.
They were prosecuted after an investigation by Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Christine Warner, its cabinet member for homes, planning and safer communities, said: ‘This business had a total disregard for safety regulations.’
The number of indoor trampolining attractions has mushroomed from just four in 2014 to more than 100.
However personal injury lawyers say they have been inundated with calls from people who have hurt themselves, sometimes with broken backs and life-changing fractures.
A spokesman for Flip Out, which has 30 centres in the UK, said: ‘The incidents relate to a specific piece of equipment that was immediately closed. Our systems and procedures have evolved significantly since.’