Devonport jumping castle tragedy: Hillcrest Primary death toll hits five as first victim identified 1

Devonport jumping castle tragedy: Hillcrest Primary death toll hits five as first victim identified

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The first victim of a jumping castle tragedy has been identified as a ‘beautiful, caring boy’ as the death toll from the freak accident at a primary school end-of-year celebration hits five.  

Five children are dead and three of their classmates are fighting for life after a wind gust blew a jumping castle 10 metres into the air at Hillcrest Primary School, near Devonport in north-west Tasmania, at about 10am on Thursday.  

Zane was due to start high school next year and was celebrating his last day of Grade 6 when his life was tragically cut short.  

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Tributes have begun pouring in online for the beloved boy who has been remembered as ‘amazing’ and ‘caring’.

Zane has been identified as one of the victims in the Devonport jumping castle tragedy

Zane has been identified as one of the victims in the Devonport jumping castle tragedy

Distraught police officers were seen consoling each other at the scene of the tragedy, while desperate parents were seen at the gates trying to find out if their children were dead or alive. 

The victims, which include two boys and two girls, were Year 6 students. Four others are in hospital – three of them in a critical condition and one is described as having ‘serious’ injuries.

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‘On a day when 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 on Thursday afternoon.

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

Two police officers console each other at Hillcrest Primary School, in Tasmania, after four children were killed when a jumping castle flew ten metres into the air

Two police officers console each other at Hillcrest Primary School, in Tasmania, after four children were killed when a jumping castle flew ten metres into the air 

Paramedics and police are pictured at a scene at Hillcrest Primary School where several children died in a jumping castle incident

Paramedics and police are pictured at a scene at Hillcrest Primary School where several children died in a jumping castle incident

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Detectives are investigating how many children were on the jumping castle when the tragedy unfolded.  

‘It’s an emotional day for everyone who is tragically impacted by today,’ Commissioner Hine said. 

‘I’ve already seen pictures of police officers quite upset, as you’d expect. Any emergency services and teachers, everyone is affected in some way.’ 

A schoolboy who watched the horrific scene unfold revealed he was almost involved in the tragedy. 

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‘It was our turn next,’ he told The Mercury. ‘Grade five and six went first.’

The jumping castle was blown into the air by a freak gust of wind, killing two kids and leaving several injured (paramedics are pictured at the scene)

The jumping castle was blown into the air by a freak gust of wind, killing two kids and leaving several injured (paramedics are pictured at the scene)

Bob Smith, who lives near the school, said he saw kids on the ground.

‘There was one really strong gust of wind on what is a beautiful calm day,’ he said.

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‘At first we thought it might have been an emergency services training exercise then the reality of what was happening kicked in.’

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein passed on his thoughts to the community.

‘My thoughts are obviously with the parents of the children that have been injured and with the emergency services,’ he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the accident as ‘unthinkably heartbreaking’.

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‘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 said while on a visit on the NSW Central Coast.  

‘It just breaks your heart.’ 

Two rescue helicopters and multiple ambulances were sent to the scene.  

Two rescue helicopters and multiple ambulances were sent to the scene on Thursday (pictured)

Two rescue helicopters and multiple ambulances were sent to the scene on Thursday (pictured)

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The inflatable castle was part of a celebration to mark the last day of school, which also included zorb balls, a slippery slide and a wet play zone. 

‘A wind event caused a jumping castle to lift into the air,’ police said in a statement.

‘Several children fell from a height of about 10 metres about 10am.’ 

Residents have been told to avoid the area. 

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‘Tragically I can confirm that there are two deceased children after an incident today at Hillcrest Primary School,’ she said.

Paramedics are pictured at Hillcrest Primary School, near Devonport in Tasmania. Two children have died and several others left in a critical condition after they fell from a jumping castle at the school

Paramedics are pictured at Hillcrest Primary School, near Devonport in Tasmania. Two children have died and several others left in a critical condition after they fell from a jumping castle at the school

The primary school said in a statement there had been an accident and the site would be closed for the rest of the day

The primary school said in a statement there had been an accident and the site would be closed for the rest of the day

‘Counselling is being made available to the families affected by this in the school community along with the first responders.’

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Images at the scene showed a wall of tarpaulin sheets set up as paramedics worked desperately to save those who had been injured. 

Comm Williams said officers were called to ‘a very confronting and distressing scene’.  

The primary school said in a statement its grounds would be closed for the rest of the day.  

‘We ask that parents come to collect their children as a matter of urgency,’ the statement read.

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Premier Peter Gutwein addressed the incident at a Covid press conference on Thursday. He said it was understood ‘there are serious injuries involved’.

The school is in Devonport in northern Tasmania (pictured). Hillcrest Primary School had posted online before the accident advertising its 'Big Day In' celebration to parents

The school is in Devonport in northern Tasmania (pictured). Hillcrest Primary School had posted online before the accident advertising its ‘Big Day In’ celebration to parents

‘As further information comes to hand we will provide it, but as this involves a primary school my thoughts are with the people involved and the parents,’ he said.

Ambulance Tasmania said it was responding to a ‘major incident’ and urged motorists in the state’s north-west to give way to emergency vehicles. 

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A woman wrote on Facebook that she had a friend who was ‘racing to the school’ and ‘saw ambulances everywhere’.

‘I’ve just been on the phone to a friend who was racing to the school – she’s a wreck,’ the woman wrote.

Hillcrest Primary School pictured.  'Several children fell from a height of about 10 metres about 10am,' a Tasmania Police spokesman said

Hillcrest Primary School pictured.  ‘Several children fell from a height of about 10 metres about 10am,’ a Tasmania Police spokesman said

Ambulance Tasmania said in a statement that it was responding to a 'major incident'

Ambulance Tasmania said in a statement that it was responding to a ‘major incident’

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Locals on Facebook said the wind was not that strong on Thursday and that a freak gust must have ripped the jumping castle from the pegs holding it to the ground.

‘It’s not even that windy down here,’ one person wrote. 

The school had posted online before the accident advertising its ‘Big Day In’ celebration to parents. 

‘Students will have the opportunity to rotate through a range of activities with their cohort,’ the school wrote. 

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A GoFundMe was launched shortly after news of the tragedy broke, raising $23,958 in three hours. 

The organiser, who grew up un Devonport, said she moved by the tragedy and wanted to do something to support the families through Christmas. 

‘All funds will go to the families of the children who were tragically killed and injured too not only support them but provide them with much needed gifts in this time of such sadness,’ she wrote. 

‘Any donation is much appreciated and hopefully we as the incredible community of Devonport can rally to support such deserving and hurting people.’ 

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