Two married fairground workers wept as a judge warned them that they face jail for the gross negligence manslaughter of a girl who died after a bouncy castle blew away with her inside it.
Seven-year-old Summer Grant died after a gust of wind lifted the inflatable from its moorings and sent it “cartwheeling” 300 metres down a hill at an Easter fair in Harlow, Essex, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.
William Thurston, 29, and Shelby Thurston, 26, sobbed and were comforted by family members after they were found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter on Wednesday.
They had denied the offence but a jury convicted them by majority verdict after more than 11 hours of deliberations.
The pair, of Whitecross Road, Wilburton, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, were also found guilty of a health and safety offence following the incident on March 26 2016.
There were gasps and sobs from their relatives as the verdicts were read out.
Summer’s mother Cara Blackie appeared tearful as she left the courtroom.
Speaking outside court, investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Danny Stoten said: “The Thurstons put profit before safety.
“They had huge weight on their shoulders and that was for the safety of children, other people’s loved ones.
“They put profit first, they’ve ignored the rules and the regulations, they didn’t conduct the checks they should have conducted and sadly Summer’s lost her life.”
Two fairground workers have been convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence after a girl died when the bouncy castle she was playing on in #Harlow became untethered during poor weather conditions.https://t.co/UGAbkmNrhy pic.twitter.com/NnKjO0VGbr— Essex Police (@EssexPoliceUK) May 9, 2018
He said Summer’s family were “pleased and relieved” with the guilty verdicts, and had “asked to be given some time to come to terms with this result”.
A yellow Met Office weather warning had been in place on the day the inflatable blew away, two days before Storm Katie was due to arrive.
Prosecutors said that the defendants failed to ensure it was “adequately anchored” to the ground and failed to monitor weather conditions to ensure it was safe to use.
Summer’s father told the trial he turned to see the bouncy castle in the air after he heard a scream, and said “my daughter’s in there”.
He gave chase but could not catch the inflatable, that witnesses described as “cartwheeling in the air, cartwheeling down a hill and only stopping when it hit a fence”.
Summer was rescued from within the bouncy castle and taken to hospital where she died from her injuries.
William Thurston told the court he had “no scientific way” of gauging wind speeds, and agreed with his barrister that he had been trained to observe things like “fluttering leaves on trees” to monitor weather conditions.
Judge Mr Justice Garnham, delaying sentencing until a date to be fixed, warned the defendants he was “seriously considering imprisonment” as an option.
He ordered that both defendants surrender their passports before they were granted bail.