News State Tasmania News Police name victims of ‘incomprehensible’ jumping castle tragedy
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Police name victims of ‘incomprehensible’ jumping castle tragedy

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Dozens of children may have witnessed the shocking jumping castle accident that killed five children and injured several more at a primary school in north-west Tasmania.

The three boys and two girls died after after a sudden wind gust lifted the castle 10 metres into the air at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport on Thursday.

Tasmania Police released the children’s names, with permission from their families, on Friday afternoon. They were Addison Stewart (11), Zane Mellor (12), Jye Sheehan (12), Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones (12) and Peter Dodt (12).

Peter Dodt’s sister Chloe has spoken of her grief.

“It just hurts … knowing I won’t be able to see him again,” she told Nine News on Friday.

“We’re not the only ones hurting, and we know that, it’s horrible but thanks to those who are reaching out and helping,” Peter’s cousin Jye Dodts said.

Three children remain in a critical condition in Royal Hobart Hospital, while one had been discharged by Friday morning, Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine said.

Nine children in total were injured when the freak gust lifted the castle up while they were enjoying end-of-year celebrations on the final day of term with about 30 of their school mates. Several adults were also injured.

Commissioner Hine said an investigation would examine whether the jumping castle was tethered.

“That forms part of the investigation, we need to continue our investigation on behalf of the coroner and also with WorkSafe Tasmania,” he said.

“We all have a lot of questions.”

The gust also picked up inflatable zorb balls, although it is not clear if they were inside the jumping. Commissioner Hine indicated most of the children were in the castle, with other details part of the ongoing police investigation.

Flowers, teddy bears and messages of support have been left outside the school as the tight-knit community comes to grips with the tragedy in the days before Christmas.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, who described the accident as “simply incomprehensible”, was among those to leave flowers.

“Overnight there has been an enormous outpouring of grief,” he said.

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

“But as a parent, I hope they can understand that we are all feeling for you.”

Some of the messages outside the school read “rest in peace beautiful angels” and “God is watching over you”.

Local father and counsellor Brad, who lives in the neighbouring suburb, was stationed outside the school handing out water bottles to visitors on Friday. He said hundreds, if not several thousand people, had stopped to pay their respects.

“The biggest thing will be the ongoing trauma, when the flowers are gone and things go back to normal,” he said.

A woman, who left a gift but didn’t wish to be named, said the community was very much still in shock.

Fiona Morrison, a member of the local Uniting Church, said some people had turned off their Christmas lights as a mark of respect.

“People who just have no connection to the school or any of the families have just come in crying and grieving over the loss of the children in something that was supposed to be a celebration,” she told Nine Network.

“They just can’t believe what has happened.”

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie, who went to school in Devonport, said people were still in shock.

“It is just, it is numbing. Honestly. I can only imagine what those parents are going through. You know, their friends, the last day of school,” an emotional Senator Lambie told the ABC.

“It’s just … absolutely mortifying, to be honest with you. It’s just shocking. We know that when tragedy hits the community will gather around and they are doing that and will continue to do that. But oh, gee, what a shocker.”

Tasmanian Governor Barbara Baker and Prime Scott Morrison have extended their sympathies to the families and the community.

“I want to extend, on behalf of the government and Jenny and I, our deepest sympathies to all the families and all the community in Devonport for this horrific tragedy, that’s occurred with the loss of five young precious lives, and more that hang in the balance,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.

“I want to thank all the first responders … it goes beyond what they could have imagined, in the scene on the ground.”

The tragedy came as the school was holding an end-of-year ‘Big Day In’ celebration.

Officers remain at the scene, along with Worksafe Tasmania investigators, ahead of a report being given to the coroner.

The Education Department is providing support to the school children, their families and staff. Counselling has also been offered to first responders.

Three online fundraising pages – including one for a boy named Zane and another for a girl named Addison – were set up on Thursday to support the affected families.

The main GoFundMe page, set up by local girl Zoe Smith, had raised more than $525,000 on Friday morning.

  • For help or support, call Lifeline on 131 114, the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, the Mental Health Service helpline on 1800 332 388, or beyondblue on 1300 224 636

-with AAP