4 children killed after strong winds swept up inflatable castle

MELBOURNE, Australia – Four children were killed and five others hospitalized Thursday after falling more than 30 feet from an inflatable bouncy castle that was lifted into the air by a gust of wind at a school in Australia, authorities said.

The accident happened around 10 a.m. at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport in the Australian island state of Tasmania, police said. Thursday is the last day of the school year for most Tasmanian children, and the school had a “big day in” to celebrate, according to a post on social media.

“Nine Class 6 Hillcrest elementary school students fell from a height of about 10 feet after a significant local wind incident caused a bouncy castle and several inflatable ‘zorb’ balls to lift into the air around 10 a.m.,” police said in a statement.

Ambulances and helicopters were called to the scene and some children were treated there while others were driven to the hospital.

Two girls and two boys died, Tasmania’s police commissioner Darren Hine told local journalists on Thursday afternoon. Four other children were critically injured and another was in serious condition, he said. None of the students in sixth grade were immediately identified.

Commissioner Hine declined to say how many children had been at the bouncy castle or whether it had been attached to the ground. The police investigated the case with the state health and safety oversight authority and would prepare a report to the forensic pathologist, he said.

After the accident, school said on social media around noon. 11 a.m. that it was closed the rest of the day, adding: “We ask parents to come to pick up their children as an urgent matter.”

Devonport is a small town of about 23,000 people in northeastern Tasmania. Hillcrest is one of its six elementary schools and is located on the outskirts of town.

The school event, which was to run from 9.30am to 2.00pm, included a slide, dance and crafts along with a bouncy castle on a school field, according to one Facebook post.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the events “heartbreaking” and “unimaginably heartbreaking.”

Commissioner Hine said the episode was “one of the most serious tragedies any of us are going to experience.” He added: “On a day when these children were meant to celebrate the last day of primary school, we all mourn their loss instead.”

When contacted for comment, Hillcrest Primary School referred a reporter for The New York Times to the Department of Education.

In 2019, ttwo children were killed and 20 others injured after a dust devil swept a bouncy castle high into the air in Henan, China. A child was killed in Britain after being thrown from a bouncy castle in 2018. Two market workers were jailed for three years charged with manslaughter by gross negligence after a bouncy castle blew away in 2016 and killed a 7-year-old girl in Essex, England.

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