Australia probes bouncy castle deaths
Australian authorities said Friday they were investigating whether a bouncy castle was tethered to the ground before a gust of wind blew it into the air, killing five children at an end-of-term school party.
Children were thrown from a height of about 10 metres (33 feet), they said, citing initial witness reports.
Three more children are now in a critical condition in hospital in the state capital Hobart and one is recovering at home, Tasmania police commissioner Darren Hine told a news conference.
Asked whether the bouncy castle was tethered “at all” to the ground, the state police chief said that question would be examined as part of a probe led by police under the direction of the state coroner, who has already visited the scene.
The investigation, which is being assisted by Tasmanian work safety authorities, will question the management of the company responsible for the inflatable castle, Hine said.
Investigators will also look into how strong the wind was at the time to see whether it was a “freak event”, the police chief said. “It is fair to say that the wind was quite strong,” Hine said.
Local weather forecasts had predicted “light winds” for the area, which lies on Tasmania’s rugged north coast.
The probe is expected to take “quite some time”, Hine said, as police would need to interview people at the outdoor party, which was attended by some 40 primary school children.
Adults at the scene gave first aid to the children until rescue helicopters and ambulances arrived after the incident, which occurred around 10 am local time Thursday on an otherwise sunny, early summer day.
Images from the school in the immediate aftermath showed attending police officers in tears, and blue sheeting shielding what officers described as “a very confronting and distressing scene”.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said there had been an “outpouring of grief” as well as support from Tasmania, the rest of Australia and from across the world.
Gutwein said he had spoken to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who offered to provide any support needed.
“As a parent, I cannot understand how the parents of those lost children must be feeling. But as a parent I hope that they can understand that we are all feeling for you as well,” Gutwein said.