Children and staff at Hillcrest primary school in northern Tasmania were enjoying the celebration marking their last day of the school year before Christmas break when a tragedy unfolded.
The festivities were abruptly ended after a gust of wind lifted a bouncy castle into the air then tossed nine children to the ground from a height of about 33 feet, killing five and critically injuring four.
Police commissioner Darren Hine said officers were summoned to the scene.
“On a day when these children were meant to be celebrating the last day of primary school, instead we’re all mourning their loss,” Hine said. “Our hearts are breaking for the families and the loved ones, schoolmates, teachers of these young people who were taken too soon. Our thoughts are also with those emergency services personnel who attended to try and save these people’s lives.”
According to Tasmanian Police, the incident occurred about 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday, Dec. 15, with officers and emergency services, including two helicopters, being on the scene within two minutes and starting to administer first aid.
In an initial statement, the police department of the island state stated. “Sadly, four children—two girls and two boys—died and another five suffered critical or serious injuries and are in hospital.”
Hours later, police confirmed a fifth child had died in the hospital. The students were in grades 5 and 6, indicating that they were between the ages of 10 and 12.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the tradegy as “shattering and 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,” Morrison said.
It is still unknown how many children were playing on the jumping castle by the time heavy winds swept it into the air. Four are now in the hospital, with three of them in critical condition.
Following the incident, the school was forced to close for the day.