8 February 2022

Calls for the 'dangerous' Kambah flying fox to be fixed gather momentum

| James Coleman
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Flying Fox handle

Flying Fox at Kambah Adventure Playground. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Following Region Media‘s report on Tahlia Floyer’s accident and injuries on the largest of Kambah Adventure Park’s flying foxes, it turned out she wasn’t the first person to have been seriously injured on the equipment, and many in the community are worried she won’t be the last.

Two concerned mothers want to see the popular playground equipment closed until it has been assessed and made safer.

READ ALSO Teenage girl airlifted to Sydney after freak accident at Kambah Adventure Playground’ very lucky to be alive’

Last month, Tahlia, aged 14, reached the end of the flying fox with such force she was flung into the ground head first. The impact broke three vertebrae and saw her taken away in an ambulance to Canberra Hospital before being airlifted to Westmead Hospital in Sydney.

Her surgeon described her as “very lucky to be alive”, and she will be in a brace for 12 months.

Two months earlier in July, Florence Ho tried it out to make sure it was suitable for her two daughters. She, too, was caught off-guard by the abrupt end, crash-landing on her shoulder.

She had to have four screws and two rods surgically placed in her back and still finds it difficult to sleep at night on account of the pain.

Flying Fox at Kambah Adventure Playground.

The largest of the flying foxes at Kambah Adventure Playground. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Florence and Tahlia’s mother contacted ACT City Services and Access Canberra in the aftermath of their accidents, but received little response.

Both mothers also reached out to personal injury lawyers but were told there was no case to be made as signage on site warns of risks associated with using the equipment.

The ACT Government said the Kambah Adventure Playground is inspected twice a week by qualified playground inspectors for any safety or maintenance issues, that no problems have been identified following the inspections, and the equipment meets current Australian Playground Standards.

“The ACT Government has contacted one of the people involved to follow up on the incident and are yet to contact another,” a spokesperson said.

However, another case from 11 years ago suggests the equipment may still carry intrinsic safety issues.

Playground Flying Fox sign

A sign warning users they proceed at their own risk. Kambah Adventure Playground. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Twelve-year-old Amy Lester was at a birthday party at the Kambah Adventure Park in February 2010 when the now-familiar story unfolded.

Her mother, Bec Lester, says Amy ended up with compact fractures of the spine and a broken collar bone. She was in Canberra Hospital for six weeks, flat on her back, before being sent home in a back brace and a wheelchair.

“We approached lawyers to see if we had a case against the ACT Government, and they took us on straight away,” Bec says.

While Bec waited to see what complications developed as Amy grew older, the lawyers organised assessments of the flying fox, even bringing in a park designer and engineer from Adelaide.

“He came back with a report detailing how and why the flying fox was unsafe and didn’t meet playground safety standards, raising issues about the height, the lack of soft-fall material underneath, the proximity of the concrete edging, and the tension in the wire.”

Flying Fox at Kambah Adventure Playground

The end of the Kambah Adventure Playground. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The flying fox was closed for a brief period and a sign was installed warning of the risks, but Bec says that as far as she knows, none of the other issues have ever been addressed.

The two parties went to a mediation hearing in 2014 and agreed to settle out of court. Amy received a compensation payout from the ACT Government.

Snedden Hall and Gallop lawyers director Amber Wang says it is not uncommon for their firm to receive enquiries for children and adults injured in ACT playgrounds.

She says the Territory has a duty of care towards all playground users and that the signage and regular inspections are part of this duty of care.

READ ALSO Monaro Highway named ACT’s worst hotspot for car crashes

The injured person would therefore need to prove negligence on the part of the government. Only then would they have a case to claim for compensation under common law.

“To determine this, it is important to consider what caused or contributed to the incident, whether the risk of injury was significant and foreseeable, the social utility of the equipment, and what precautions could have been taken to prevent the incident occurring,” Amber says.

“There are strict time limits to commence these claims, so it is best to seek legal advice promptly following injury.”

All three mothers reiterate that they don’t want to see the flying fox so much removed as closed temporarily so it can be assessed and altered.

“If this is ongoing, and people are breaking their backs, why the heck is it still there as it is?” Bec says.

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Capital Retro8:07 am 27 Oct 21

Are “cause and effect” and “probability” Neo Marxist doctrines because if they are not the kids won’t be taught about them. Most parents wouldn’t know about them either.

Capital Retro10:05 pm 24 Oct 21

Some years ago, I went with some other parents to Cotter reserve to camp after our 12yo boys had won their football final.

It was a warm day and I was able to fix a strong rope to a tree on the river bank so it could swing out over the river where one of the parents of had already ensured it was over 2 metres deep.

Every one of those kids had never swung out and dropped in a river before and they had a ball with all the fathers supervising. In the evening an ACT park ranger turned up and cut the rope down despite our attempts to reason with him.

I did the same thing at another river in NSW when I was 12yo, often by myself and with no parents around. I survived.

The anti VAx community would have a field day with the at your own risk nonsense..
The park should be fit for purpose. It either meets the requirements or it doesn’t. The sad part is the government is allowed to settle privately without transparency.

If the fox isn’t safe it should be. Canberra deserves to have their playgrounds properly managed an administered. It should not matter if its in tuggeranong or not.

I’m guessing that injuries have occurred to only a very small minority of users. Why close them off to all if some vetty few are injured? We’d have to shut down most sports if that were the case.

ChrisinTurner1:30 pm 23 Oct 21

Children need to be taught tat living in Canberra is dangerous, in particular the 50 km/hr speed allowed in residential streets and next to parks and close to schools.

Surely it’s time for the government to take control of the risks our children are exposed to from leaving the house.

We must have the government mandate that all children are covered in multiple layers of bubble wrap before they venture outside. You know it makes sense.

Well duh, it’s clearly the government’s job to baby sit the children of Canberra.

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