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Five children dead, several critical after jumping castle blown into air at Tasmanian primary school

A Tasmanian community has been rocked by grief after a jumping castle was blown into the air at a Devonport primary school, leaving five children dead and several in hospital.

Two boys and two girls died in the incident. However, the gender of the fifth child whose death in hospital was announced by Tasmanian Police on Thursday evening, is unclear.

At least four others remain in hospital, several in a critical condition.

All the children who involved in the tragedy, which struck during a celebration of the final day of the school term, were in years 5 or 6.

A police and WorkSafe investigation is underway into the incident, which occurred about 10am on Thursday when the castle lifted about 10 metres into the air. It is unclear how many children were playing on the inflatable castle at the time.

Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine said the investigation would take some time to complete, and it would later be passed to the coroner for an inquest.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein described the tragedy as inconceivable, devastating and heartbreaking.

“I know that this is a strong and caring community that will stand together and support one another,” Mr Gutwein said.

“I speak for all Tasmanians in extending my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of everyone affected by today’s tragedy. For the … children who remain in hospital, our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their friends during this very difficult time.”

Footage from the scene on Thursday morning showed parents arriving at the school to collect their children and students streaming out of the gates.

Several helicopter ambulances were called in to help transport patients to hospitals.

Mr Hine said support and counselling had been made available to affected families, first responders and the school community.

“On a day when these children were meant to be celebrating their last day of primary school, instead we’re all mourning their loss,” he said.

“Our hearts are breaking for the families and the loved ones, schoolmates, teachers of these young people who were taken too soon.

“Our thoughts are also with those emergency services personnel who attended to try and save these people’s lives.

“We’re going to be doing everything we possibly can to support the school community and the community at large. There will be counselling available to the wider community and also to the school community.”

The Commissioner said there were unfortunately a number of witnesses to the incident who needed to be interviewed.

An ABC reporter who was one of the first people on the scene described it as one of the most confronting of his career.

Monte Bovill said he arrived at the school at the same time as many parents and family members.

“When I first arrived parents were just running, running down the street screaming,” he told ABC radio.

A photograph taken by Mr Bovill showed emergency service workers comforting each other at the scene.

Mr Bovill said the jumping castle ended up in a tree 50 metres from its original site.

Beverley Dobson, who lives with her husband a couple of hundred metres from the school, said it had been a calm day until a strong wind gust came along.

Weather bureau observations appear to confirm that, with wind speeds of between 7km/h and 19km/h in the morning at Devonport Airport.

Ms Dobson said the community was in shock after the incident.

She said it was only on Wednesday that she was talking to her neighbour’s granddaughter, who attends the school, about how excited she was about the jumping castle.

“She was telling [my husband] and I how excited she was about having the jumping castle at school and to have a good day,” Ms Dobson said.

“I rang [her grandmother] and she said to me, ‘I’m here, Bev, I’m at the school [after the incident]’.

“She texted me in a few minutes time and said, ‘I’ve got her’.

“We don’t have these things every day … and when there are children involved and it’s so close to Christmas and everything, it’s just terribly sad.”

Thursday was the final day of school for the year for most Tasmanian schoolchildren.

A number of online fundraisers have been set up to support the affected families. Among them, 18-year-old Devonport local Zoe Smith’s, which had raised more than $138,000 in donations as of 9.30pm on Thursday.

Ms Smith has no relationship to the families whose children died or were injured in the incident, but wanted to start the fundraiser to offer what support she could.

“You can’t put it into words, really, how people are feeling,” Ms Smith said.

“People just want to support [the families] … I think that comes from having that small town, community feeling in Devonport.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the incident was “shattering” and “unthinkably heartbreaking”.

“Young children on a fun day out together … and it turns to such horrific tragedy, at this time of year, it just breaks your heart,” Mr Morrison said.

“I just want to say on behalf of [my wife] Jen and I, to the parents, to the family and friends and all who were there, to the other young children who were there and witnessing these events, I just pray that you’ll have great family around you and great friends and that you’ll be able to come through this horrific tragedy.

“We’ll be staying in close contact with the Tasmanian government and providing whatever support is necessary, but they have all the services and support that they need there.”

Source: smh.com.au

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