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

James Coleman 17 October 2021 256
Janelle Cirina and Tahlia Floyer

Janelle Cirina and 14-year-old daughter Tahlia Floyer. Photo: Janelle Cirina.

A freak accident at Kambah Adventure Playground last month saw a 14-year-old girl airlifted to Westmead Hospital in Sydney with a broken spine. Her mother is now calling for a risk assessment of the popular flying fox equipment.

On 11 September, Tahlia Floyer reached the end of the flying fox with such force she flipped into the air and crash-landed on her head and neck, breaking three vertebrae.

Her two friends immediately realised something was wrong and rushed over from the other end of the flying fox to help when a passerby called out for them not to move her.

Flying fox

Flying fox at the Kambah Adventure Playground. Photo: File.

The passerby, a woman, immobilised Tahlia while another woman with medical experience approached the scene to help.

They phoned for an ambulance and called both of Tahlia’s parents.

Janelle Cirina was out of range at the time but gobsmacked when she did find out, saying that – of her three kids – Tahlia was the least likely to take risks.

“She has always been the quietest one, and then to hear that this happened to her – I couldn’t process it.”

Janelle says that at this point in the lockdown, Tahlia was missing her friends and agreed to meet them outdoors.

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What happened next was the last thing “you would think would have happened at a children’s playground”.

Canberra Health Services established she had broken the T11, T12, and T1 vertebrae in her back and that she should be sent to Sydney for surgery.

Tahlia’s surgeon at Westmead Hospital described her as “very lucky to still be alive”. She is now back at her home in Urila, about an hour’s drive from Canberra, with six screws in her back and a fused spine.

“She’s got a brace that’s been tailor-made for her. If she doesn’t have that on, she can’t move.”

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The family will return to Westmead in two weeks to assess how the repair is going. A less restrictive brace may need to be made, one that she will wear for six to 12 months.

“She’s had a few really down days,” Janelle says. “I just really need to look out for her mental health at the moment.”

Janelle herself feels “really disgruntled by the whole thing”.

“You go through a range of emotions. Grief, followed by anger, and you think, ‘How can this possibly happen?’ My two older children are quite daring – they jump out of planes. My son fell out of a five-metre tree being silly, and they’ve always been fine.”

Janelle Cirina and family

Janelle Cirina and her three children. Photo: Janelle Cirina.

She has since put in a complaint to the ACT Government but has yet to receive a response.

“Even Tahlia wrote in to describe what happened to her and how she feels about it. Surely these things face a risk assessment from time to time, to work out if things need to be changed.”

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Janelle has since posted to Facebook to find the ‘good Samaritans’ who rushed to her daughter’s aid, saying that “we cannot express enough gratitude for your quick thinking and extraordinary act of kindness”. She has been in contact with one of the women.

“It was really on my mind to thank those women because it could have been a very different outcome if her friends had run down and just pulled her up.”

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256 Responses to Teenage girl airlifted to Sydney after freak accident at Kambah Adventure Playground ‘very lucky to be alive’
Acton Acton 11:14 am 22 Oct 21

If a kid falls out of a tree are we also going to demand the government does a risk assessment and remove them?

    Gerry Satrapa Gerry Satrapa 11:41 am 22 Oct 21

    FYI- students are banned from climbing trees on school grounds after an incident several years ago at Lyneham Primary School where a child died.

    Gerry Satrapa Gerry Satrapa 11:47 am 22 Oct 21

    Edit – Brindabella Christian School, 2001

    Acton Acton 3:26 pm 22 Oct 21

    Kids being kids have died in swimming pools, at the beach, in cars, off bicycles and in every other place and way it is possible to have an accident. They need to run, jump, skip, climb, slide, be adventurous, explore, have fun, take risks and scrape their knees. The greater risk to kids is interfering over-protective nanny-state adults who want to sanitise their world. The result will be neurotic, fearful, risk averse children who will turn into neurotic, fearful, risk averse adults.

James-T-Kirk James-T-Kirk 6:25 pm 21 Oct 21

I hope she is ok. This is a terrible accident.

And that’s what it is, and accident.

You can break vertebrae in your neck from a fall of as little as 3 feet if you land at exactly the correct angle.

If they risk assess it, then the rating will end up above ‘LOW’, which is the ACT Government’s risk threshold and it will be removed – Just like the Gordon Pond one… Remember it?

Risk is a reality of the world. Kids learn about risks by being exposed to life – I broke my toe by playing netball in a freak accident. Fortunately, nobody has risk assessed the netball courts at most schools to remove them.

The last thing I want my grandkids kids to be exposed to is a playground made from rubber, where the highest surface is 0.7m above the ground and where you have to wear a safety harness and have OH&S supervision.

Again – I hope she is ok – it is simply a terrible accident.

Cherie Deweske Cherie Deweske 5:15 pm 21 Oct 21

Yeah I agree. She backflipped when she reached the end? I played on this as a child as have countless generations of children (FYI I’m 43 )The force in all honesty is not that great when you come to the end as it inclines its much less.I’m heavier like said child it did not even make it to the end incline it zipped |(after zipping back and forth to the middle where i let go to a painless drop ) unless u are not following the directions (FYI ..in lockdown ..why was the child not with her parents ?!) In the decades this has been there the actual injuries are minimal. If people follow the rules as stated . I hope said child is ok

Claire O'Brien Claire O'Brien 7:37 pm 20 Oct 21

My sister broke her back on this same flying fox in the late 80s/early 90s. The drop is too high in areas. My daughter did national level gymnastics for years, but I wouldn’t let her on it. Do your own risk assessment as a parent. Sorry to hear another young person broke their back.

Jane Kim Jane Kim 9:51 am 20 Oct 21

Our granddaughter (5) and her (68-year-old) grandfather use this flying fox often, as did our now adult children, many years ago. It’s a lot of fun! She also uses the smaller one, and loves the tall climbing towers!

It’s quite safe if used carefully and properly. She’s been shown how to use it and is always supervised on it. It’s not a piece of equipment for everyone, however that’s the point.

We hope this incident is fully investigated as to how it actually happened, and that this piece of equipment is not removed unnecessarily. The whole point is that it’s an “adventure” park.

Life is an adventure and not without risk, however it’s also fun! We shouldn’t be wrapping kids in cotton wool.

Brooke Ferris Brooke Ferris 9:30 pm 19 Oct 21

Jaime Hage ...this is so sad! ...remember what happened on jadas birthday? 😱

Arlene Smith Arlene Smith 7:54 pm 19 Oct 21

Kathleen Mary Smith Erin Winter in adventure park?

Bridget Trussler Bridget Trussler 7:08 pm 19 Oct 21

My son many years ago went head into the pole. Please get rid of it before someone is killed......

Matt N Amy Matt N Amy 5:16 pm 19 Oct 21

That flying fox is really slow. I see older kids pushing each other really hard to swing the seat high up when it reaches the end.

Naomi Hume Naomi Hume 4:00 pm 19 Oct 21

when i was 7 or 8 i had a accident on the small flying fox and had to be taken to hospital to have 15 stiches put in my chin as my top teeth went though my lower jaw i had to be held down this was before the tyres were on either end and it was my uncle pushing me my dad was pushing my sister who was 8 at the time so we were not being silly at all the speed just went fast and i fell
sometimes accidents happen and this does not mean anyone was doing anything wrong at the time but things might need to be changed over time the big flying foxes has been there for over 30 years and maybe the slope has changed and needs to be evaluated if this is not the first accident that has happened i wish the young lady a full recovery

Kit Oates Kit Oates 3:31 pm 19 Oct 21

Sounds like it could use reviewing to ensure its safe, though given the extent of the damage I have a strong suspicion that it was either being used incorrectly or there's external factors of some description not being reported on.

I think it would be a shame to remove it entirely -kids should learn how to use equipment without hurting themselves, bubble wrapping playgrounds just means they'll hurt themselves far harder with something far more dangerous later in life.

Donna Robinson Donna Robinson 2:25 pm 19 Oct 21

A big Happy birthday to my dear friend Anne. Have great day

Daniel James Daniel James 2:12 pm 19 Oct 21

I'm confused because as a kid and young adult I used to sit on the handlebars on the big one and got the slightest jolt at the end I even used to get my mate to run me to the end with the rope and whilst that jolt was bigger we never fell off so I don't understand how it can jolt someone off and cause so much damage if it's being used as intended.

    Claire Anderson Claire Anderson 6:08 pm 19 Oct 21

    Daniel, the newer ones really do stop way WAY more abruptly. I too rode the old ones with help of people pulling and never got hurt. I’m now 26 and got completely F’d up on the new ones

Stephanie De Hoog Stephanie De Hoog 1:57 pm 19 Oct 21

My son also fell onto his back from this flying fox, I’m grateful that he wasn’t seriously injured and I hope this little girl is ok. I would also love to see it re-engineered to change the sharp stop at the end and add some soft fall underneath.

Natasha Arioli Natasha Arioli 1:51 pm 19 Oct 21

Tyron Catania at the park we take our kids, remember I said there’s a sign at the park pretty much saying use the flying fox and skate park at your own risk 🤨☹️ so dangerous!

Amanda Lewington Amanda Lewington 1:35 pm 19 Oct 21

Leanne Masters - what I was telling you about yesterday

Lisa Schimizzi Mickleburgh Lisa Schimizzi Mickleburgh 12:14 pm 19 Oct 21

Always thought that thing was dangerous

Nicole Kociolek Nicole Kociolek 11:44 am 19 Oct 21

Natayah Mulherin look at this Cherie Kociolek

Adam Wright Adam Wright 11:14 am 19 Oct 21

There is all ways one that has to ruin it for everyone

Jodie Brown Jodie Brown 8:49 am 19 Oct 21

Kelly Rush same flying fox that busted your knee

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