Officials begin investigation after boy dies from fall at trampoline park

GASTONIA, N.C. — A 12-year-old boy has died after falling while rock climbing at a trampoline park in Gaston County, police told Channel 9 Friday morning.

The incident happened Wednesday night as Matthew Lu was climbing the rock wall during his birthday party at the Altitude Trampoline Park in Lowell. He reportedly fell about 10-15 feet.

Friends of the family told Channel 9's Ken Lemon that Lu had the kind of personality that everyone in his Gastonia community relished.

Lu's neighbor Lorraine Dalpiaz, 85, said she had a bond with the child.

"The nicest young man I have ever seen," she said. "He did nothing but please people."

Dalpiaz said Lu often played games with her and her 90-year-old sister.

Age didn't matter; he loved people and people in the South Hampton community loved him.

"I don't know anyone that he didn't like," said Dalpiaz.

Those close to him said he had an adventurous spirit, but something went wrong while he was climbing.

Photo Courtesy: South Hampton Racquet and Swim Club

On Friday, a sign on the front door said the park was closed "due to an injury at the park and out of respect to the family."

On Thursday, the company’s executive vice president of global operations, Courtney Wilde, said the company was staying in contact with the family.

Wilde said the company closed the rock climbing structure after the incident while they “investigate exactly what happened.”

Wilde added, “We’re taking every step necessary at the park.”

Altitude Trampoline Park corporate management, the manufacturer, insurance agents and third-party investigators are going through surveillance video.

“We are taking this very seriously and consulting experts to see what we can do to prevent this from moving forward,” Wilde said.

Officials are also interviewing people.

“We do have certified safety monitors that we are going through and checking every latch, every harness, every clip,” Wilde said.

Police told Channel 9 that after the fall, Lu was airlifted to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte for treatment of “potential brain injuries.”

A woman who identified herself as Lu's mother told 911 dispatchers that her child was unconscious following the fall. It was one of many panicked 911 calls made from the trampoline park Wednesday night.

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When paramedics arrived, witnesses said Lu couldn't move and was barely breathing. Channel 9 learned he died Thursday.

Some customers Channel 9 spoke with at the trampoline park said the fall has them now second-guessing their own children's safety.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” said Lindsay Bridges. “It makes me question if we should go again."

Police said they watched video from inside the park that recorded during the fall and there were no apparent signs of a criminal act and they are not conducting a criminal investigation.

Earlier this year, Channel 9 investigated trampoline parks and how they're regulated.

Anchor Allison Latos found out both North Carolina and South Carolina do not inspect and regulate trampoline parks.

Lawmakers told Latos they would look into changing that, and the International Association of Trampoline Parks said starting next year, those parks must get third-party inspections to become members.

One of the biggest takeaways from the investigation is how restrictive the waivers are that parents sign.

Most of them make parents sign away their right to sue. Channel 9 got a copy of the Altitude Trampoline Park's waiver and it states," I acknowledge that if anyone is hurt during my participation in the Park activities, I may be found by a court of law to have waived my right to maintain a lawsuit against Park Owner."

[ALSO READ: Trampolines are more dangerous than you think — Read the warnings, advice from experts]

Some families choose to sue anyway. Latos spoke to an attorney who settled a lawsuit against an indoor trampoline park in Pineville after his client was injured there. He said the waivers are hard to understand and don't adequately warn people about the dangers.

Paramedics in Gaston County told Channel 9 they have responded to Altitude four times this year, including Lu's deadly fall. They said there probably have been more injuries, but people took themselves to the hospital.

In Mecklenburg County, MEDIC said it responded to trampoline parks 88 times between January 2016 and November 2018. Most were for traumatic injuries like broken bones and twisted knees.

Altitude Trampoline Park opened in December 2018.

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