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How safe are trampoline parks? Mother who lost son pushes for regulations

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By Scott Stump

As indoor trampoline parks explode in popularity, one mother is fighting for more regulations to make sure they're safe for children and adults. 

Maureen Kerley lost her only son, Ty Thomasson, when he died at 30 years old in February 2012 after somersaulting into a shallow foam pit at Skypark, a facility in Phoenix. 

"It was only 2 feet, 8 inches deep, so he went through it like butter,'' Kerley told Hallie Jackson on TODAY Wednesday. "He broke five major vertebrae in his neck, and he just never came back to life." 

Kerley now wants to prevent others from experiencing the same tragedy. 

"There was no medical procedure in place,'' she said. "Most of the employees were under the age of 18. Your children are your whole life, and you can only protect them so much." 

Maureen Kerley lost her 30-year-old son, Ty Thomasson, in an accident at a trampoline park in 2012 and is now fighting for more regulations at trampoline parks nationwide. Today

There are no federal standards for the more than 200 indoor trampoline parks across the country, and only a handful of states have considered tougher regulations. Kerley has successfully lobbied for a new law in Arizona — dubbed Ty's Law — requiring the parks to undergo a registration process and regular inspections. She is now focused on nationwide regulation. 

"We really did it to help parents out there so they would never have to experience this, and we believe this is what Ty would want us to do,'' Kerley said. 

A new Arizona law known as "Ty's Law," requires registration and regular inspection for trampoline parks in memory of Ty Thomasson (left), whose mother, Maureen Kerley (right), pushed for the legislation after Thomasson's death in 2012. Today

"Our concern is there is very little oversight over the safety,'' Dr. Gary Smith of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told TODAY. "These designs are not safer, for example, than a backyard trampoline." 

One parent, Ken Harper, found that out firsthand when his 6-year-old daughter had her leg broken in two places after a larger boy landed on her on a trampoline at an indoor park. The Harpers are now suing the trampoline park where it occurred. 

"If something goes wrong, boy it can go wrong,'' Harper told TODAY. 

Ken Harper has experienced the dangers of trampoline parks firsthand, as his 6-year-old daughter broke her leg in two places when a larger boy landed on her on a trampoline. Today

"We really feel trampoline parks are optimally safe,'' Jeff Platt, the chairman of the International Association of Trampoline Parks, told TODAY. "And if not, I don't think people would continue to come back over and over again."

Parents taking their children to a trampoline park should follow voluntary industry standards, look to see if monitors are in place to watch the trampolines and make sure the park separates kids by size, experts say. 

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter and Google+.