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A 2-year-old boy died Thursday afternoon after strong winds blew over the bounce pillow he was playing on at a pumpkin patch north of Lincoln on Wednesday.

The boy, Caleb Acuna of Lincoln, and his 5-year-old sister, Aura, were taken to Bryan West Campus after the incident at JK's Pumpkin Patch, 757 Bluff Road, according to Lancaster County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Gaston.

Aura was released from the hospital Thursday morning after being treated for her injuries.

Sheriff Terry Wagner and the sheriff’s office extended their deepest condolences to the boy's parents, Edward and Berna Acuna, and everyone involved.

"It's tragic," Capt. Tom Brookhouser said.

Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon ordered an autopsy, and the Sheriff's Office investigation into the incident was ongoing Friday.

Pumpkin patch owner Josh Kadavy didn't respond to a call seeking comment, but posted to Facebook that his attorney had advised him not to take media questions at this time.

"Our thoughts, prayers & deepest condolences & sympathies are with the family at this time," Kadavy said in the post. "It's been an extremely emotional situation for me and my family as well as the family of the little boy. We are continuing to lift the family up in prayer."

Staff at Candlewood Church in Lincoln set up a GoFundMe account for the Acuna family.

The young family hails from Colombia, South America, and Edward Acuna teaches and studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Modern Languages Department. 

Caleb, along with his sister and mother, participated in Lincoln Literacy's Family Literacy Activities for Immigrants and Refugees program at Culler Middle School, according to an email from the organization aiding the fundraiser for the Acunas.

"Caleb (...) was adored by all in the FLAIR program," the email said.

Program manager Sandra Rojo said news that Caleb and his sister were hurt in the incident was devastating.

"Those kids were perfect, just perfect," she said in the email. "I can't believe this has happened."

The two were playing on the unenclosed bounce pillow with their parents during a private event shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday. The parents got off the pillow just before a gust of wind, measured nearby at 59 mph, shifted and tore the inflatable from its moorings, lifting it 30 to 40 feet into the air, Raymond Fire Safety Officer Nick Monnier said.

Aura was thrown about 30 feet, but the pillow wrapped around the boy "like a taco shell," Monnier said, and trapped him. It landed about 40 yards away.

The gust also blew another large bounce house more than 100 yards, Monnier said.

Wagner called the wind gust "unusual" and said the bounce pad had been tied down.

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

In August, the Lancaster County Board of Commissions approved an amusement license for the pumpkin patch, which is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The pumpkin patch was not open to the public Wednesday.

JK’s Pumpkin Patch carries the requisite liability insurance from Western Agricultural Insurance Co., according to its license application.

JK's was closed the previous weekend because of concerns about safety amid forecast rain.

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On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.


Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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