Five children were killed and another three are in critical condition after a tragic accident during end-of-year celebrations at a primary school in Devonport, Tasmania. Now, Australia is rallying around the families affected.
A gust of wind lifted a jumping castle off the ground while several children were inside, causing them to fall an estimated 10 metres to the ground. The identities of the children have not officially been released, but they were in grades five and six of Hillcrest Primary School.
Two girls and three boys were killed in the accident. Tragically, on Thursday evening police confirmed that a fifth child had died in hospital.
On Friday afternoon, Tasmanian police released their names, they were Addison Stewart, aged 11, Zane Mellor, aged 12, Jye Sheehan, aged 12, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, aged 12, and Peter Dodt, aged 12.
“These children were meant to be celebrating their last day of primary school, instead we’re all mourning their loss,” Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine said Thursday afternoon.
“Our hearts are breaking for the families and the loved ones, schoolmates and 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.”
Hours after the horrific event occurred, several GoFundMe pages were created to help the families of the children affected by the tragedy. One which was set up for all five of the children has already generated more than $770,000 in donations at the time of writing.
An individual GoFundMe page for one of the victims described the student as, “such a beautiful caring, gentle soul who had challenges growing up with his autism and ADHD but that never set him back he kept achieving”.
On a separate GoFundMe page for another student, the victim’s aunty wrote of her niece: “I don’t even know what to write at this stage. Everyone is devastated, she was always such a sweet kind, old soul.”
On Thursday, December 16, Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport, Tasmania was hosting an end of year celebration with its year 5 and 6 students.
At about 10am, a jumping castle holding several school children was lifted into the air by a gust of wind, along with several “zorb” balls, per Channel Nine. The children fell an estimated 10 metres to the ground as a result.
Emergency services were called straight to the scene to begin administering first aid. By that afternoon, four children were confirmed dead, and a fifth death was later confirmed that night. Two boys and two girls were among those killed.
As of Friday morning, three other children remain in a critical condition in hospital, and police have confirmed another has been discharged from hospital and is recovering from home.
The tragic event sent shockwaves through the community, and beyond. A Devonport woman named Zoe Smith, who said she did not know the students or their families, immediately set up a GoFundMe page which has already raised more than $770,000.
On the page, she shared her devestation about the horrific event, explaining that she “wanted to do something to support the families throughout Christmas”.
“All funds will go to the families of the children who were tragically killed and injured to not only support them but provide them with much-needed gifts in this time of such sadness.”
All of the funds raised would go to the school and parents and friends committee there—which will then be distributed to the families who were effected.
Police Commissioner Darren Hine confirmed an investigation was underway.
He added that the investigation would take some time to complete. A WorkSafe investigation is also underway, per The Sydney Morning Herald.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein described the event as “devastating and heartbreaking”.
“It’s difficult for me to find the right words. On a day when schoolchildren were celebrating at the end of school term so close to Christmas, it is simply inconceivable that this shocking incident has occurred,” he said, adding “I know that this is a strong and caring community that will stand together and support one another.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also commented on the tragedy, telling media on Thursday: “Young children on a fun day out, together with their families and it turns to such horrific tragedy. At this time of year, it just breaks your heart.”
Main image: Monte Bovill / ABC News