Australian police name five children killed in bouncy castle tragedy

Five children killed in Australian bouncy castle tragedy are named as ‘heartbroken’ father pays tribute to his ‘baby boy’, saying: ‘Dad loves you so much… till I see you again in heaven’

  • Police have identified five children killed in bouncy castle accident in Australia 
  • Zane Mellor, Peter Dodt, Jye Sheehan and Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, all aged 12, and Addison Stewart, 11, were killed around 10am Thursday in Tasmania
  • All were playing on a bouncy castle while a freak gust of wind swept it 30ft up in the air, with three of their classmates still in critical condition 
  • ‘Heartbroken’ parents have been paying tribute to their children online 

Five children killed in a freak accident when a bouncy castle was blown 30ft into the air by a ‘mini tornado’ at an Australia primary school have been identified. 

Zane Mellor, Peter Dodt, Jye Sheehan and Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, all aged 12, and Addison Stewart, 11, were killed around 10am Thursday during end-of-term celebrations ahead of Christmas at Hillcrest Primary on the island of Tasmania. 

The tragedy unfolded on the school sports field when a bouncy castle they were playing on was swept into the air by a sudden gust of wind, causing them to fall back to the ground and leaving them with fatal injuries. 

Three more of their classmates are still fighting for life in hospital, while a fourth sustained ‘serious’ injuries but has since been released to recover at home. 

As police began investigating the tragedy, including whether the bouncy castle was properly tethered to the ground, single father Andrew penned a heartbreaking Facebook tribute to son Peter. 

‘My baby boy Peter Dodt has grown his wings this afternoon and left me so heartbroken. I would do anything in this world just to have him back,’ he wrote.

‘Dad loves you so much. Peter, till I see you again in heaven xxxx.’

Peter Dodt (pictured), 12, lived in Devonport, Tasmania, with his dad Andrew and his sisters before his life was tragically cut short on Thursday

Zane (pictured) was enjoying his last day of primary school on Thursday when he died, along with four of his classmates

Hillcrest Primary School graduate Zane (pictured right with dad Tim) was the first of the five victims to be identified

Addison Stewart (pictured) was also one of the five students who was tragically killed when the jumping castle lifted 10 metres in the air

Investigators have not yet given details about how exactly the tragedy unfolded. 

What is known is that children were taking part in a range of end-of-term activities spread out across the sports field at the time the tragedy unfolded, with other children waiting in line to use the bouncy castle when it suddenly took off. 

On Friday morning, the mum of a boy next in line revealed her guilt and relief that her child did not have time to get on the bouncy castle before tragedy struck.

The woman, who gave her name only as ‘Tanya’, said: ‘We all feel so heartbroken for the parents involved, and feel guilty that we are also relieved our children were not injured,’ she said.

‘The school had a [bouncy castle] for school break-up last year as well. You wouldn’t dream a fun activity day would end like this.’

 Her nine-year-old son, who was not named, added: ‘It was our turn next, and we were getting ready to walk down to the [sports field].’

‘Grade five and six went first, and we were waiting.’ 

Tanya said she was doing her Christmas shopping when she heard the tragic news, and rushed to be with her son.

Another parent who did not wish to be named told The Australian that a ‘mini tornado’ was responsible for what he called a ‘freak accident’.  

‘Only yesterday my wife was at the school taking photos of the children before the summer break,’ he said. 

‘They were all so happy … what has happened today is just so gut wrenching. Everyone is just in a state of shock.’

He described the scenes at his daughter’s school as chaos.

‘They were herding the kids from the schoolyard into the classrooms to get them away, but they had windows overlooking what was happening – so they had to move them again,’ he said.

One of the first to be identified was Zane, described in online tributes by family and friends as a ‘beautiful, caring, gentle soul’ in online tributes.

Denitta Ryder, Zane’s step-mum, said he meant the world to father Tim who will be ‘lost’ without his son.

‘We are going to miss him so much, his cheeky smile, a smile so big his eyes would light up,’ she said.

‘To Zane’s dad Tim, his children are his whole world and he is completely lost without him.’

On Thursday night, just hours after the tragedy unfolded, Tim Mellor shared a photo of him and his son together.

‘I’m going to miss you, mate,’ he wrote.

Ms Ryder also said her step-son was a smart boy who loved going on adventures with his family.

‘He was so gentle with his younger siblings, they all absolutely adored him and he adored them,’ she shared.

She set up a Go Fund Me campaign for Mr Mellor to ensure he doesn’t have to worry about money while he grieves the loss of his son.

Witnesses said distraught parents broke down sobbing when they heard what happened to their children.

Peter’s aunt Tamara Scott broke down on Friday morning when explaining that the boy’s father, Andrew Dodt, was ‘beyond shattered’.

‘He went to the school this morning to collect his school bag – he felt he had to do that, and he just cuddled it and cried,’ Ms Scott said.

‘He’s unrepairable.’ 

Tasmanians flocked to Hillcrest Primary School on Thursday and Friday to pay their respect (pictured)

The devoted aunt said her brother Andrew is a single father with sole custody of his four children, but that he and Peter shared a special bond.

‘He loved his dad with everything he had,’ she said.

‘It was him and his dad against the world.’

Ms Scott said her nephew was determined to overcome his ADHD and become an astronaut.

The family set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help Andrew with living and funeral expenses. 

At a press conference on Friday morning, police refused to say whether the jumping castle was tied down when into flew the air. 

‘Was the jumping castle tethered at all?’ one reporter asked.

‘That forms part of the investigation,’ Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren 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.’

Seven zorb balls, which are large and inflatable balls that children stand inside, also took flight during the strong wind gust – but the commissioner again remained tight-lipped about the details.

‘What was the connection with the zorb balls, were they inside the castle or outside?’ a reporter asked. 

‘That will form part of the investigation,’ he said.

Pictured: Bouquets of flowers and cards at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport, Tasmania, on Friday

‘But my understanding is that the zorb balls were outside. But it will form part of the investigation.’ 

When another journalist tried to ask whether all the young victims were inside the jumping castle at the time, the commissioner gave a very similar response.

‘Again, that forms part of the investigation,’ he 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.’ 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday described the tragedy as ‘horrific’ and said he’s been in contact with the Tasmanian Police Commissioner.

‘I want to extend on behalf of the Government, and Jenny and I, our deepest sympathies to all the families and all the community in Devonport for this horrific tragedy that’s occurred with the loss of five young precious lives, and more that hang in the balance,’ he said.

‘I want to thank all the first responders. Our first responders each and every day are trained to deal with some of the most unimaginable things, but on this occasion it goes beyond what they could have imagined at the scene on the ground.’

The Prime Minister, who has two school-age daughters and is a Pentecostal Christian, said he was praying for the victims’ families.

‘As a parent there are no words. There can only be prayers,’ he said.

Police commissioner 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.   

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 

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 outpour of love and support we have all received. Rest easy our beautiful boy, I’ll live my life everyday for you.’

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.’

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.

‘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.’

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.’

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