‘Devastating, heartbreaking’: Tasmanian Premier speaks of Devonport community’s pain

Police will investigate if the jumping castle was tethered before the fatal accident which has resulted in the deaths of five children.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said a grieving local community is struggling to comprehend the deaths of the five children, who have died after falling from a jumping castle in the state’s northwest on Thursday.

“The tragedy which occurred yesterday is beyond comprehension. It is devastating, heartbreaking. It’s just simply incomprehensible,” Mr Gutwein told reporters.

“What should have been a celebration for the end of the school year turned into an unfortunate tragedy for our young children at Hillcrest Primary,” he said.

Mr Gutwein said his thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the deaths.

“As a parent, I cannot understand how the parents of those who have lost children must be feeling,” he said.

“I hope that they can understand that we are all feeling for you as well.”

Emergency services were alerted to the incident at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport around 10am on Thursday.

Tasmania Police said a “wind event” caused the jumping castle to lift into the air, resulting in nine students falling from a height of 10 metres. Three remain in a critical condition in hospital and one child is recovering at home.

One 11-year-old girl and four 12-year-old children — one girl and three boys — died as a result of the incident.

The death toll from the tragedy rose to five overnight after a child died in hospital.

Police said there were close to 40 Year 5 and 6 students taking part in end-of-term activities when the jumping castle flew into the air.

Several adults were also in attendance when the inflatable equipment lifted into the air and they rendered first aid until emergency services arrived.

WorkSafe Tasmania is now investigating how the incident occurred.

Part of the investigation will look at whether the jumping castle was tethered and how strong the wind was at the time.

Mr Gutwein said following the incident, the Department of Education immediately checked to see whether any jumping castles were being used across the state with a view to stopping them.

He said along with the investigation and report from the coroner, the Department of Education will be conducting its own review as well.

Tasmanian Commissioner of Police, Darren Hine, urged the community to seek support if they are struggling.

“The whole community and particularly the Devonport region is feeling this loss deeply. Support those around you and ask for help if you are struggling. That is so important,” he said.

“There is no doubt this incident will leave its mark and I know people are sending their thoughts and prayers from right across the country and even further afield.”

Devonport Mayor Annette Rockliff said the community is still in “shock”.

“We are still trying to get our heads around how we could possibly be losing these children,” she said on Friday.

“We are a very connected community. Everybody knows somebody, and we are already seeing people wrapping their arms around each other and supporting each other and I know that that will continue.”

She said the council will be working with counselling services and social responders to ensure the community is well supported.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, who went to school in Devonport, said the loss of the five children was “shocking”.

“Honestly, I can only imagine what those parents are going through. [It was their] last day of school,” Ms Lambie told ABC News.

“It’s just – absolutely mortifying to be honest with you. It’s just shocking.”

Ms Lambie said she will head over to the school on Friday morning to pay respects to those who died and their families.

“It’s just a week before Christmas, it’s – I mean honestly, I don’t even know what to say. It’s just – it’s bloody awful.”

“There would have been kids starting high school next year. We are all very clicky down here so it couldn’t surprise me if those police officers even knew people that knew those families.”

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300224636.


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