Cops have refused to say whether a jumping castle was tied down before a ‘mini-tornado’ blew it 10 metres into the air, leaving five children dead and three fighting for life in hospital.
The disaster unfolded at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport, northern Tasmania, at about 10am on Thursday.
Four children were in a critical condition at Royal Hobart Hospital on Thursday evening, but Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine announced on Friday morning that one has been released.
‘Nine children were seriously injured,’ he told reporters at a press conference.
‘Tragically, five of those children have died, three boys and two girls. One was 11 years old, four were 12 years old.
‘Three remain in a critical condition at the Royal Hobart Hospital. One is now recovering from home.’
Year six students Addison Stewart and her classmate Zane were the first victims to be identified.
When journalists repeatedly asked whether the bouncy house was tethered to the ground before the tragedy, police refused to answer the question.
Zane Gardam has been identified as one of the victims in the Devonport jumping castle tragedy
‘Was the jumping castle tethered at all?’ one reporter asked.
‘That forms part of the investigation,’ Mr Hine said.
‘It is fair to say that those injured were inside the castle. We need to piece the movements of the individuals together so we can present a full picture to the coroner.’
Mr Hine also said there were close to 40 Year 5 and 6 students taking part in the end-of-term activities at the time.
‘Several adults were also in attendance when the inflatable equipment lifted into the air and they rendered first aid until emergency services arrived,’ he said.
Harrowing accounts came from eyewitnesses at the scene, who described seeing distraught parents broken down in the gutter, sobbing.
Flags at the Devonport Council chambers were at half mask on Friday morning to honour the young victims.
Addison Stewart (pictured) was also one of the five students who was tragically killed when the jumping castle lifted 10 metres in the air
Tasmania Police said the children fell from a height of about 10 metres after the wind picked up the jumping castle and several inflatable zorb balls
Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein described the tragedy as ‘beyond comprehension’.
‘It is devastating, heartbreaking. It’s just simply incomprehensible. What should have been a celebration for the end of the school year turned into an unfortunate tragedy for our young children at Hillcrest Primary.’
‘As a parent, I cannot understand how the parents of those who have lost children must be feeling.
‘But as a parent, I hope that they can understand that we are all feeling for you as well.’
Tributes have begun pouring in online for the beloved students who have been remembered as a ‘beautiful, caring boy’ and a ‘precious’ girl with a ‘sweet, kind, old soul’.
Zane’s aunt wrote a gut-wrenching tribute to her nephew on Friday morning.
‘My heart is so heavy and broken, how do I even write this,’ she shared on Facebook.
‘Never would I have imagined I would have to say goodbye to you my boy. Yesterday we lost the most beautiful soul my sisters first baby, my first nephew, our heart and our soul.
‘Thankyou for the out pour of love and support we have all received. Rest easy our beautiful boy, ill live my life everyday for you.’
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
A GoFundMe page has been launched to help Zane’s grieving family financially through this devastating time.
‘Zane was 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,’ the fundraiser reads.
‘This has shook so many people and the community and we want to do anything to help make things a little easier for [his mum] at this hard time.’
Addison’s aunt has also launched a GoFundMe to help her parents as they ‘navigate life without their precious daughter’.
‘My niece was tragically taken in the accident at Hillcrest Primary,’ she wrote.
‘I’m hoping to raise some money for my brother and sister in-law to help pay for funeral costs and to pay off some bills for them while they try and navigate life without their precious daughter.
‘I don’t even know what to write at this stage. Everyone is devastated , she was always such a sweet kind, old soul.
‘We all love you Paddi Melon.’
Flowers and teddy bears have started to pile up around the school’s sign as the community pays tribute to the victims
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
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.
Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine said on Thursday that an investigation will take ‘some time’ as many witnesses needed to be interviewed.
‘We’ll be supplying a report to the coroner in conjunction with WorkSafe Tasmania,’ Commissioner Hine told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
‘That will take some time to complete and once that’s completed it will be handed to the coroner for an inquest.’
Tasmania’s Education Department will provide support to children, families and staff in coming days and into the school holidays, while counselling has also been offered to first responders.
Bouquets of flowers have been laid at the base of the fence as the community mourns the tragedy
The jumping castle was blown into the air by a freak gust of wind, killing five kids and leaving several injured (paramedics are pictured at the scene)
‘Our approach is being guided by our senior psychologists, who are trained in trauma-informed practice,’ Secretary Tim Bullard said.
Local resident Connor told Daily Mail Australia his colleague lives across the road from the primary school and ran over when she heard sirens.
‘She first thought there was a shooting,’ he said.
‘She said the scene as horrific and confronting, with children everywhere on the ground.
‘[But] what got her the most was the parents sitting in the gutters, on the side of the road head in hands, crying.’
‘The community is just devastated.’
Two rescue helicopters and multiple ambulances were sent to the scene on Thursday (pictured)
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.
‘At first we thought it might have been an emergency services training exercise then the reality of what was happening kicked in.’
Within an hour of the tragedy, dozens of frantic parents had rushed to the school and were forced to wait at the entry gates, not knowing whether their children were dead or alive with one claiming they were left in the dark.
‘I’m here now they won’t let us in, it was (child’s name) grade but no one knows who was hurt yet,’ she wrote.
‘I have a friend with children there and he hasn’t heard anything yet,’ another added.
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 said while on a visit on the NSW Central Coast.
‘It just breaks your heart.’