'I could have died' says boy on runaway inflatable

The Maloney family portrait — father, mother and three healthy children — nearly was shattered.

On Saturday, June 27, Chris Maloney, a board member on the Middletown Pee Wee Football League, was signing up players at Douglass Park, while a few miles away, his wife, Melissa, and two sons, Tyler, 11, and Zach, 9, were watching their sister, Brittany, 13, play in a girls fast-pitch softball tournament run by Young American Youth Advancement Services.

“It was a good day,” Chris Maloney said.

Then his cell phone rang with “shocking” news that turned his life upside down.

At 3:40 p.m., Tyler, a fifth-grader at Highview Elementary School, was sitting near the top of the inflatable slide monitoring children as they rode the ride at Goldman Park.

That’s when an apparent gust of wind pulled the ride away from the ground, flipped it several times as it traveled about 70 yards before some fast-acting parents stabbed holes in it with knives.

Meanwhile, Tyler, the only person on the ride at the time, was tossed from side to side until he was thrown into a nylon safety net near the top of the ride.

“I just hung on,” Tyler said Monday, June 29, while sitting in his Middletown home. “I could have died, I’ll tell you that.”

He looked down at a picture of the incident that appeared in Sunday’s Journal. He quickly turned away.

“I was very lucky,” he said. “I was terrified. ... I can’t talk right now.”

Tyler fell an unknown distance and landed at the feet of DJ Schiavone, who picked up Tyler and carried him away from the inflatable.

“He’s lucky,” Schiavone said. “It had a fatal marked all over it if not for the grace of God.”

Tyler was placed on a stretcher by Middletown paramedics and transported to Atrium Medical Center.

That’s when his father arrived. “That’s the most scared I’ve been in my life,” he said. “It could have been devastating.”

Tyler was examined at the hospital, and all tests were negative. He only suffered a bruised tailbone, his father said.

“Thank God he’s alive,” his father said.

Chris Maloney was upset because at the time of the incident, there was no adult supervision on the ride.

He wants to be reimbursed for his son’s medical expenses, and he hasn’t decided whether to pursue legal action.

Harry Gabbard, president of the organization that sponsored the softball tournament, could not be reached for comment.

According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which monitors amusement park safety, it’s the responsibility of ride owners to assure the rides are set up correctly.

Ken Martin, an amusement ride safety consultant from Richmond, Va., for 15 years, said after viewing the pictures of the incident on the newspaper’s Web site, it appears the ride wasn’t properly secured. He said there should have been 12 to 15 stakes securing the ride.

“It was doomed from the get-go,” he said. “You averted a disaster this weekend.”

On Sunday, Tyler was watching TV with his father when he said: “Buddy, there’s a chance I could not have been here right now.”

“That’s when it hit me,” Chris Maloney said. “We were that close to losing him.”

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2842 or rmccrabb@coxohio.com.

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