Post exam relief turned to pain and trauma this afternoon for over two dozen primary school students after an inflated slide capsized at the Hilton Barbados Resort, causing injury to them.
The students, who had just completed the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination, commonly referred to as the 11-plus, were playing in the area of the tennis court when their joyful shouts quickly turned to screams and loud cries for help.
The incident occurred around 3:20 p.m. just as Barbados TODAY arrived to conduct interviews with the students and the hotel’s management, organizers of the 11-plus, It’s Over event.
At the time, there were about 20 students playing on the slide, that was approximately 25 feet high. However, without notice, it started to deflate and quickly toppled over, resulting in injury to 26 people, including 11 girls, eight boys, two babies and five women.
Of that number, 12 were rushed to the Accident & Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital by ambulance; eight people left to go to Fast Track at the Winston Scott Polyclinic, Jemmotts Layne, St Michael and six were subsequently discharged, Police Public Relations Officer Acting Inspector Rodney Inniss reported to Barbados TODAY this evening around 8:15 p.m.
He also said that police investigations were continuing to determine the cause of the incident even though one parent recalled seeing another’s foot touch the electrical plug that was connected to the slide just before it started to deflate.
“A lot of children had to jump off of it [the slide] because nobody could get off the way they wanted to get off of it,” the parent said, while calmly revealing that his daughter was next in line to go on the ride.
However, Mark Welch and his son, Aamari, were visibly shaken by the traumatic experience.
Welch told reporters: “All I saw was the jumping tent falling. It came down so fast. I’m not going to speculate, but it fell quickly and there was nothing that anybody could have done. From the time it started to fall, you could not stop it.” He lamented that a “beautiful day” that started with exams and was followed with celebration, had ended in the children being hurt.
Another parent said: “I saw the entire jumping tent just leaning to the right and it just fell right down . . . as children flew off the top [of the slide] and some hit flat on their faces.”
“One of the little boys actually hit his face and I just had to run to see who I could help,” the upset woman added.
Today’s incident triggered a mass casualty response by police and other emergency personnel, including fire, ambulance and the Barbados Defence Force who were immediately summoned to the scene, which was one of pure pandemonium initially as parents rushed to the assistance of their charges, including those who were injured.
The hotel’s staff also jumped into action, bringing chairs, towels and other emergency items as medics treated those with minor injuries at the scene.
As officials scrambled to bring the situation under control, some children were seen lying on the ground in an unresponsive state, while others cried out in pain before ambulances arrived.
Also among the injured was a pregnant woman, who was treated at the scene by medical staff and later discharged.
In a statement this evening, the Ministry of Education expressed sadness over the turn of events.
“It is indeed an unfortunate end to what should have been an afternoon of celebration and enjoyment. The ministry empathizes with the parents of these students and will continue to monitor the condition of the injured children,” the statement issued by Barbados Government Information Service said.
In an equally brief statement tonight, the hotel also said it was saddened by the incident.
“Our thoughts remain with those affected, and we will continue to extend our support to the impacted guests and their families as we hope for their speedy recovery.
“The safety and security of our guests is of paramount importance. We are in close contact with the third party vendor hired to provide the entertainment, and we will continue to work with the police as they investigate the incident.
“Please direct any further inquiries to the police department,” the statement added.