A ‘ripple effect’ of grief is expected to run through the Tasmanian town of Devonport after five local children were killed in the jumping castle tragedy.
In a community of just 20,000 people, the small town on the state’s north coast is dealing with an unimaginable event in which many residents will have a connection to one of the children or families involved.
‘Everyone will know someone who knows someone in the family or in the school community,’ Devonport Mayor Annette Rockcliff told the Today Show on Friday morning.
‘There are lots of connections in this community and it will be a really tough time and I’m sure that everyone’s trying to process it as best they can.’
‘I know my community well and I know that … they are taking care of each other and we will continue to do that as best we can over the coming days and weeks.
‘It is, as you say, unimaginable and it’s a very difficult time for so many people in our community.’
She told Sunrise that the small, close-knit community ‘will wrap our arms around them and do the best we can to support them’.
‘Everyone is interconnected, so everyone knows somebody and we are all still struggling to even comprehend what has happened,’ she said.
‘This will affect everyone differently, and some more than others.
‘We had more than 90 ambulance officers on site yesterday… and all of those are part of our community as well.
‘It’s a huge ripple effect right through.’
Zane Gardam has been identified as one of the victims in the Devonport jumping castle tragedy
Addison Stewart (pictured) was also one of the five students who was tragically killed when the jumping castle lifted 10 metres in the air
Devonport Mayor Annette Rockcliff has described the terrible ‘ripple effect’ the tragedy will have on residents of the town. ‘Everyone is interconnected, so everyone knows somebody and we are all still struggling to even comprehend what has happened,’ she told Sunrise
The deaths of five children celebrating their last day of primary school has devastated the town.
A freak gust of wind scooped up the inflatable castle hoisting it 10m into the air before crashing back to the ground at a Hillcrest Primary School event to mark the Year 6 students ending their stint at the school.
Around 40 Year 5 and 6 students were taking part in the end-of-year activities.
Several adults in attendance rendered first aid to nine seriously injured children until emergency services arrived.
Grade six students Addison Stewart and her classmate Zane Gardam were among five pupils killed, while three other children are fighting for their lives in hospital in critical condition and one is recovering at home.
Three boys and two girls were killed in the incident. One was aged 11 and four of the children were 12 years old.
The deaths of five children celebrating their last day of primary school has devastated the town of Devonport
‘I have had the opportunity to speak with people in this community, to come to understand just how connected this community is,’ Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said on Friday.
‘The number of people I’ve spoken to that knew people who were there yesterday, or had connections to the school, and I know that this is going to be a very challenging time for this entire community.’
Even hardened police and ambulance crews – some of whom likely have a personal connection to the students and school in the 20,000-strong community – were shaken and brought to tears at the distressing scene.
Ms Rockliff told The Project last night that the people of the city are reeling from Thursday’s tragedy and ‘struggling to get their head around it’, revealing she had met some of the children only a week earlier.
‘I did meet all of those children last week, I was in their classroom for an hour or so, so it’s pretty tough to think about that,’ an emotional Ms Rockliff told the Channel Ten program.
‘We’re all still in shock. We’re all still struggling to come to terms with the accident and how it is playing out.
‘We’re certainly trying to take care of each other but we’re all still struggling to really get our heads around it.’
Ms Rockliff said at she had not been told the identities of the families involved but was deeply concerned for their wellbeing and mental health, as well as that of the first responders.
‘I understand there were at least 70 ambulance officers on-site for most of that time and then there were obviously police and the firies involved as well,’ she said.
‘So they’re all members of our community, they all have connections in our community. Many of them have children. For them it has been a tough day as well.’
Five children from Hillcrest Primary School (pictured) have died in a freak jumping castle accident
A jumping castle was launched 10m into the air at Hillcrest Primary School (pictured)
Just days ago the school announced on social media they would be holding a ‘Big Day In’ celebration to mark the end of the school year and celebrate the primary school graduates.
‘We are excited to let you know that on Thursday December 16, as an alternative arrangement to our school picnic, we will be having a Big Day IN celebration at the school,’ Hillcrest Primary wrote on Facebook on Monday.
‘The purpose for the day is to celebrate a successful year and enjoy some fun activities with classmates.’
The ill-fated day of fun kicked off at 9:30am with student given the opportunity to ‘rotate through a range of activities with their cohort’.
Among the activities were wet play zone including a slippery slide with water puddles and sprinklers.
There was also games and dancing as well as zorb balls and art and crafts areas.
But the main attraction for the big day was the jumping castle with parents told in the social media post to bring a hat, sunscreen and a packed lunch.
Hillcrest Primary School is located in northwest of Tasmania in the town of Devonport
Mourners in the heartbroken community paid tribute by leaving flowers at the school
‘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.
‘Our hearts are breaking for the families and the loved ones, schoolmates, teachers of these young people who were taken too soon.’
The school announced on Facebook it was closing for the remainder of Thursday and asked parents to urgently collect their children.
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 is 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.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was tragic how cuh a happy occasion could have ended as it did.
‘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.
Two police officers console each other at Hillcrest Primary School, in Tasmania
Paramedics and police are pictured at a scene at Hillcrest Primary School (pictured)
Two rescue helicopters and multiple ambulances were sent to the scene.
Detectives are investigating how many children were on the jumping castle when the tragedy unfolded, and would include that in a brief to be prepared for the coroner.
A harrowing photo showed distraught cops consoling each other after two children were declared dead at the scene.
Commissioner Hine said seasoned first responders who were at the shaken by the devastating events.
‘It is an emotional day for everyone who is tragically impacted by today,’ he 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.’
More than 70 ambulance officers attended the tragic scene on Thursday
Two rescue helicopters and multiple ambulances were sent to the scene on Thursday (pictured)
Hillcrest Primary School said ‘counselling is being made available to the families affected by this in the school community along with the first responders.’
Images at the scene showed a wall of tarpaulin sheets set up as paramedics worked desperately to save those who had been injured.
A school boy said he was about to have his turn on the jumping castle when the accident happened.
‘It was our turn next,’ he said, according to The Mercury. ‘Grade five and six went first.’
Paramedics are pictured at Hillcrest Primary School, near Devonport in Tasmania
The primary school said in a statement there had been an accident and the site would be closed for the rest of the day
Ambulance Tasmania said in a statement that it was responding to a ‘major incident’