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Nebraska toddler dies after bounce pillow was thrown 100 feet by wind

Posted at 2:19 PM, Oct 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-05 17:19:06-04

A 2-year-old Nebraska boy was killed and his sister was injured when wind tore a giant inflatable from its moorings and tossed it 30 feet into the air before dropping it, with the toddler wrapped up inside, more than 100 feet away, authorities said Friday.    

The Lancaster County sheriff's office said Caleb Acuna suffered severe head trauma in his ordeal Wednesday evening at JK's Pumpkin Patch, just north of Lincoln. Caleb was taken off life support Thursday afternoon.    

His 5-year-old sister, Arra, suffered a broken arm.    

"It's certainly a tragic situation," said Lancaster County Sheriff's Capt. Tom Brookhouser. "The sheriff's office has never worked an incident like this in the 28 years I've been here."

The siblings were playing on the bounce pillow -- similar to a bounce house, but without any walls -- around 6 p.m. Wednesday when an estimated 59 mph (95 kilometers per hour) wind gust tore it from its moorings.    

Raymond Fire Safety Officer Nick Monnier told the Lincoln Journal Star that the children's parents had just climbed off the inflatable when the wind swept it up. Monnier said Arra was thrown about 30 feet, but that the pillow folded over on top of Caleb Acuna and carried him more than 100 feet.    

A nearby bounce house was also blown away by the same wind gust, he said.    

Brookhouser said authorities are still investigating, and that an autopsy is planned.    

The National Weather Service had issued a wind advisory for Wednesday afternoon, warning of gusts up to 60 mph. Winds throughout the day consistently exceeded 20 mph.    

The large, pillow-shaped inflatables are common at county fairs and on lakes. Manufacturers commonly warn that they should not be used when winds exceed 20 mph.    

The Lancaster County Board of Commissions in August approved an amusement license for the pumpkin patch, according to the Journal Star.    

Owners of the pumpkin patch haven't responded to a phone message from The Associated Press. According to the company's voicemail, the pumpkin patch had been closed the previous weekend because of concerns about the weather.