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Devonport jumping castle tragedy: Outpouring of grief for five dead Hillcrest Primary students

1 month ago 152

Candles have lit up the streets of a tight-knit Tasmanian town as the community mourns the tragic deaths of five children from a freak jumping castle accident at a primary school end-of-year celebration.   

Three are still fighting for life after a wind gust blew a jumping castle 10 metres into the air at Hillcrest Primary School, near Devonport in the state's north-west, at about 10am on Thursday. 

Bouquets of flowers and teddy bears have also been laid at the base of the school's entrance sign on Lawrence Drive as the community honours the victims. 

The mound of tributes at the scene is just one of a number of moving acts the heartbroken Devonport community has displayed since the tragedy unfolded as it grieves alongside the families.  

As news of the catastrophe spread, members of the coastal town, home to around 26,000, quickly rallied together to show their support to the families affected. 

A graphic designer created an image showing a map of Tasmania split in two with a red broken heart superimposed over the crack in the middle of the island. 

Flowers and teddy bears have started to pile up around the school's sign as the community pays tribute to the victims 

Zane 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

By midnight Thursday, the symbol went viral as hundreds of people made it their profile picture, some sharing a post advising others to follow the trend.

'I'm sharing this in honour of the poor kids who lost their lives or were injured today,' the post reads.

'In support of all the families who are grieving, for the families of the children still fighting and for the children themselves. For the teachers and emergency service workers who have been impacted. My heart goes out to you all.

'This image was created by someone who has given permission for it to be used. So let's all share it and show our support.' 

Another woman organised a vigil, urging others to leave candles alight out the front of their homes in memory of the young victims and their families. 

'We as a family will be lighting a candle tonight and placing it in our driveway/footpath in respect to the angels that have flown away today,' her post read. 

'We welcome anyone to join us in lighting a candle in respect to everyone involved in the tragedy that has unfolded today.'

Bouquets of flowers have been laid at the base of the fence as the community mourns the tragedy 

Devonport locals have left lit candles out the front of their homes as a show of respect for the victims, their families, and first responders

A woman initiated the candle light vigil, which has morphed into a 'Lights On' for Hillcrest event to take place again on Friday 

Members of the community flocked online to share photos of their candle displays in honour of the victims 

Her idea was picked up and spread throughout the community, with locals flocking online to share photos of wax shrines set up by their kerbs. 

Others have now vowed to keep the observance going for another night, planning an official 'Lights On' for Hillcrest Primary to be held on Friday.   

'All we ask is tomorrow night to show your support is to turn your front porch light on. If you don't have one, light a candle,' a post reads. 

'In our little world Tasmania, and even Australia as a whole, we are mourning the loss of todays terrible tragedy that occurred at Hillcrest Primary School today.

'As parents and humans, we are brought together with pure heartfelt hugs, tears and the deepest of sympathy, to the sweet young children who were tragically taken.

'To the parents, families, friends, the school children, witnesses, emergency personnel and to anyone this will affect forever in a day, we truly are so sorry for your losses.' 

Tributes have begun pouring in online for the first of the victims to be identified, Addison Stewart and Zane. 

The pair were due to start high school next year and were celebrating their last day of Year 6 when their lives were tragically cut short.  

A design depicting a broken heart overlaid onto a map of Tasmania has gone viral, with hundreds of members from the local community making it their profile picture 

The beloved students have been remembered by loved ones as a 'beautiful, caring boy' and a 'precious' girl with a 'sweet, kind, old soul'.

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.'

Harrowing accounts came from eyewitnesses at the scene, who described seeing distraught parents broken down in the gutter, sobbing. 

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. 

Two police officers console each other at Hillcrest Primary School, in Tasmania, after five 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 five children died in a jumping castle incident

The victims, which include another boy and girl, were Year 6 students. Four others are in hospital - three of them in a critical condition and one is described as having 'serious' injuries.

'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.'  

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.'   

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)

A local man, who wished to only be known as 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.' 

Connor added: 'The community is just devastated.'

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.

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

'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.'  

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.'  

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

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