Australian authorities have identified the five children who tragically died after winds tossed a jumping castle 32 feet into the air at a primary school.
In a post on Facebook, Tasmania Police on Friday confirmed that Addison Stewart, 11, Zane Mellor, 12, Jye Sheehan, 12, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, 12, and Peter Dodt, 12, all died in the incident on Thursday at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport.
“Our thoughts continue to be with the families, loved ones and all those affected by this tragedy,” police wrote in their statement.
Authorities confirmed in a separate post that another three children remain in the hospital in critical condition. One child who was injured is now recovering at home, they said.
“An absolute tragedy is the only way to describe this event,” Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine said in a statement. “There’s no doubt this incident will leave its mark, and I know people are sending their thoughts and prayers from right across the country, and even further afield.”
The freak accident happened around 10 a.m. local time as “close to 40” fifth and sixth-graders were “taking part in the end of term activities,” according to Tasmania Police.
A significant local wind event swept through the area, which caused a jumping castle and several inflatable “zorb” balls to lift into the air while the students were using them. Initially, police said four children had died but that number later rose to five.
Police are currently investigating the incident alongside WorkSafe Tasmania, and stated in Friday’s post that they are preparing a report for the coroner.
The Education Department also confirmed that a temporary ban on jumping castles at state schools would remain in place until the investigation was complete, according to news.au.com.
“The Department of Education has policies and procedures in place in relation to holding a range of activities on school sites. These policies and procedures are reviewed and updated regularly,” the spokesperson said, per the outlet. “The Department of Education put a hold on the use of jumping castle-style equipment until the results of the investigation are known.”
In the wake of the students’ identities being released, several tributes were made as the community expressed their heartbreak.
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Outside of the primary school, flowers and stuffed animals were left in honor of the victims, as shown in photos captured by local journalists.
A GoFundMe page was launched by a community member to help the impacted families with financial support and provide them with “much-needed gifts in this time of such sadness.” In just one day, it has raised over 1,061,960 AUD (about $757,119 USD).
“I don’t know of or are related to any of the affected children but this is something close to my heart and it was something simple I could do,” organizer Zoe Smith wrote on the page. “I was moved by the tragedy at Hillcrest Primary School and wanted to do something to support the families throughout Christmas.”
Other GoFundMe pages, created in honor of each specific victim, were also launched, raising hundreds to thousands more for the families.
On a fundraiser for Stewart, the 11-year-old was remembered by family members as “a sweet kind, old soul.”
Mellor’s family friends said on his GoFundMe that he “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.”
A GoFundMe page for Dodt was set up by his aunt, who lovingly called the 12-year-old “our ‘Lil Red Ninja.'”
“He was at school enjoying his last day with his friends when tragedy would change many lives for always,” organizer Donna-marie Curtis wrote on the page. “Peter, being my nephew, this has hit home hard.”
Another GoFundMe page for Dodt, set up by his other aunt, Tamara Scott, stated that her nephew “was full of life and adventures.”
Counseling has been made available for those impacted by the incident. Hine promised that Tasmania police “will be doing everything we can to support our community going forward.”
“We know Tasmanians will come together to support each other at this difficult time,” Hine added. “Again, my heart goes out to all those affected, and my thoughts are with them.”