Four children killed in bouncy castle accident at Australian school

Bouncy castle horror leaves four children dead and four more fighting for life after ‘freak gust of wind’ throws inflatable 30ft in the air during end-of-term celebrations at Australian primary school

  • Four children killed and four seriously hurt in freak accident at Australian school 
  • Pupils were taking part in end-of-term celebrations ahead of Christmas holidays 
  • Freak gust of wind blew a bouncy castle 30ft in the air, dragging children with it 
  • Four who died were in Year 5 and 6, thought to be aged between 10 and 12 years 

Four children have been killed and another four are fighting for life after a bouncy castle was blown 30ft in the air by a freak gust of wind during an end-of-year celebration at a primary school in Australia.   

The tragedy unfolded at Hillcrest Primary, on the island of Tasmania, around 10am Thursday as pupils gathered on the sports field to celebrate their last day of term before breaking up for the Christmas holidays.

Police say a freak ‘wind event’ lifted up the bouncy castle and several inflatable ‘zorb’ balls, dragging children into the air who then fell back to the ground across the sports field and a nearby slope.

The four who died – two boys and two girls – were Year 5 and 6 pupils, and are thought to be aged between 10 and 12 years old. Four others of the same age are now in hospital in critical condition, with a fifth ‘seriously’ hurt. 

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 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

It is understood to be only the second year that Hillcrest has hosted such an event.

Usually, the end of term is marked with a large picnic but that had to be changed last year due to Covid social distancing rules.

Instead of celebrating together as one group, the pupils were split into ‘cohorts’ which rotated through a range of activities.

The concept was so popular, that Hillcrest decided to repeat it this year. 

Aside from the bouncy castle and zorbs – inflatable balls that people can climb inside – there was also a ‘wet play’ zone with sprinklers and an arts and crafts area.

The event had been underway for just half an hour when the tragedy struck.

Officers have so-far refused to give any details of how the accident unfolded, including whether the bouncy castle was properly anchored to the ground. 

An investigation has been launched, and a coroner has also visited the site.  

‘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.’  

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. 

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

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.’

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’.

‘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.  

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.  

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.

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

‘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. 

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

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.

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. 

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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