Safety measures to be reviewed after video of woman 'drowning' in suspended ball pit at City Square Mall goes viral

The ball pit is part of City Square Mall's three-storey Airzone, which has been touted as the world's first net playground built in a shopping centre atrium. ST PHOTO: FABIAN KOH

SINGAPORE - The operator of a newly opened attraction at City Square Mall, which features a suspended ball pit, said on Saturday (Feb 3) it will review safety measures after a video of one of its visitors "drowning" in the pit went viral.

Bloggers Vivien and John Low, who run parenting blog Beautiful Chaos, posted a video on their Facebook page on Saturday of their visit to the three-storey Airzone, which has been touted as the world's first net playground built in a shopping centre atrium.

The attraction, which had a soft opening in mid-January, includes a ball pit suspended on the third storey, and a slide and maze leading to the fourth and fifth storeys.

Mrs Low said in the post that she had the "fright of my life" after entering the pit with her son, Riley.

"Not long into the play, I lost my balance in the ball pit and fell backwards. I could not reach the bottom and I could not stand up," she wrote, adding that her height is 1.72m.

Attempts to roll over or grip the net failed and when she "panicked and waved and screamed for help", no one came, she claimed.

Mrs Low added that her son was "stuck inside" in the ball pit too, together with a few other children. She was able to pull herself up after grabbing someone's hand.

Her experience was captured on video and the couple's Facebook post has since attracted close to 4,000 shares and more than 500 comments in a day.

Parents whom The Straits Times interviewed on Sunday afternoon that they were not concerned about the viral video, with some calling the Facebook post an overreaction.

When ST visited at about 12.30pm, children were seen deliberately jumping into the ball pit and completely submerging themselves in the balls.

While there was some screams, none of the visitors appeared in distress.

Remote video URL

Staff, dressed in dark blue tops, were also seen at each of the sections.

Mr Eddy Cham, a 34-year-old technician who was at the mall with his nine-year-old son, said that he was aware of the video.

"The kids who are shorter than adults are all enjoying themselves. Furthermore, the manner in which the entire structure is secured is quite safe."

He pointed out how there was double netting as a precautionary measure. "The kids seem to be having fun, rather than being afraid," he added.

In response to the Lows' Facebook post, Airzone apologised for their experience and said in a comment that it will be reviewing the number of balls included in the pit and ensure that first-aid trained staff will be swifter in their response to any requests for assistance.

"It is also a requirement at Airzone for children under the age of seven to be accompanied by an adult. This should have been communicated to parents with children prior to entering the attraction," it said.

The attraction is operated by Ultimate Entertainments Group.

In response to ST's queries, an Airzone spokesman said on Sunday it will be speaking to visitors to get feedback on their experience, and also look at reducing the slack of the nets to make the pit shallower.

The pit currently holds about 40,000 balls, and staff members at the counter told ST that as of Sunday, the number of balls has remained the same.

There are two to three trained staff on each level of the structure during peak operating hours, and a mandatory safety briefing is held before visitors are allowed to enter the attraction.

"So far, the feedback we have collected about the ball pit has been very positive and we've not received any other feedback about the ball pit being too deep," the spokesman said.

Current safety measures will also be strengthened, including having staff members keep an eye out for visitors who appear to be struggling in the pit.

Other measures include limiting the number of guests and staff members inside the pit to eight at any point in time.

Mr Low later clarified that it was his wife's first time visiting the attraction and Riley's second time.

In fact, he added that his son asked to return because he "really loves the ball pit".

He also said in a reply to Airzone that "many people are overreacting" to their post and that he had gotten used to the ball pit after 10 minutes in a previous visit.

"It really is quite safe, although a little out-of-the norm experience," he wrote.

He also said that their post was meant to advise parents to accompany their child in the pit.

Remote video URL

Madam Nana Wahab, 42, was looking on as her two daughters, aged seven and eight, and her eight-year-old niece, played in the facility on Sunday.

She told ST she found the concept of the suspended playground interesting.

"This is good for training my daughters' confidence. My younger one, especially, has a lack of confidence, so I let her play here to build it up. I brought her here to help her overcome her fear of heights."

She said that the presence of crew members helped ease any worries about safety, as they look out for the children, and help them if they fall down or need assistance moving around the different levels.

A crew member (in dark blue top) stationed at the ball pit. ST PHOTO: FABIAN KOH

She added that her daughters and niece enjoyed the ball pit but steered clear of the centre as it was "quite deep".

"They are all almost 1.2m tall so when they stand there only their heads can pop up over the top," she said.

National Safety Council president Ameerali Abdeali told ST it is good that safety measures at the facility are being reviewed.

"But there is a need to closely monitor the situation and improve where necessary, as well as ensure that regulatory requirements are met," he added.

The attraction has received about 1,700 visitors since its soft opening and will be officially launched on Feb 9.

A City Square Mall spokesman told ST on Monday that it is "aware of the online conversation about the suspended ball pit and understands that the shopper was alarmed but was happy that her husband and son had a good experience overall at the Airzone".

The spokesman said that the mall has been working closely with Airzone's management and will review every feedback it receives.

"We would like to assure our shoppers that the owners of Airzone have extensive experience and proven longstanding track record in operating thrill and family attractions," the spokesman added.

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