Five children have died after a wind gust blew a jumping castle into the air at a primary school in north-west Tasmania.
They fell from a height of about 10 metres in the freak accident during end-of-year celebrations at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport on Thursday.
Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine confirmed two boys and two girls had died in the incident, and another five children were in hospital, four in a critical condition and one with serious injuries.
In a statement on Thursday evening police confirmed a fifth child died in hospital.
— GutweinTeamMedia (@GutweinTeam) December 16, 2021
“These children were meant to be celebrating their last day of primary school, instead we’re all mourning their loss,” Mr Hine told reporters.
“Our hearts are breaking for the families and the loved ones, schoolmates, teachers, of these young people who were taken too soon.”
Police and WorkSafe Tasmania are investigating the incident and a report will be prepared for the state coroner, who has already inspected the scene.
We extend our deepest condolences to staff, students and families at Hillcrest Primary school and the Devonport community. The heartbreak and devastation of this accident is beyond comprehension. Our thoughts are with all who are affected by this tragedy @aeutasmania @AEUfederal
— Correna Haythorpe🌈 (@CHaythorpeAEU) December 16, 2021
Commissioner Hine said the investigation would take “quite some time” and a number of people and witnesses needed to be interviewed.
“Our focus now is supporting those who are tragically affected by what’s happened,” he said.
Hillcrest Primary School closed for the day and told parents to urgently pick up their children not long after the incident at 10am.
Multiple ambulance crews rushed to the school and several rescue helicopters helped take the children to hospital.
All our thoughts and condolences are currently with the Hillcrest Primary School and the entire Devonport community at this tragic time.
— Tasmania JackJumpers 🐜 (@JackJumpers) December 16, 2021
Police initially reported one child had died before confirming other deaths later in the afternoon.
Counselling is being made available to families, the community and first responders.
Commander Debbie Williams said it appeared the children fell from a height of about 10 metres and described the scene as very distressing and confronting.
My heart is breaking for all those impacted by the tragedy at Hillcrest Primary School in Tasmania today.
My prayers are with the family and friends of the children who lost their lives, the injured, the first responders and all those who witnessed this deeply distressing event.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) December 16, 2021
Bob Smith, who lives near the school, told The Mercury newspaper he saw kids on the ground.
“There was one really strong gust of wind on what (was) a beautiful calm day,” he said.
“At first we thought it might have been an emergency services training exercise, then the reality of what was happening kicked in.”
The school was holding a ‘Big Day In’ celebration to mark the end of the school year.
“(The) tragedy is something that will have a deep impact on the north-west community,” Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said.
I’ve just stumbled across this @gofundme page – money can’t bring back the five beautiful souls tragically lost today, but it can help ease the financial burdens for families if you’ve got anything to spare 💜 https://t.co/NkAYwQCl5J
— Ebony Abblitt (@ebonyabblitt) December 16, 2021
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the accident as unthinkably heartbreaking.
“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,” he told reporters on the NSW Central Coast.
An online fundraising account to support the families had raised more than $24,000 by Thursday evening.