Jumping castle crash still scars Hillcrest Primary School as pupils prepare to return


For six Devonport families, the start of the first trimester will be like no other.

Six families continue to mourn the loss of their children, killed during the end of school year celebrations in December.

Pupils at Hillcrest Primary School in Years 5 and 6 were playing on a bouncy castle and inside inflatable Zorb balls when a gust of wind lifted them into the air.

Witnesses saw children fall to the ground from a height of about 10 meters, before part of the bouncy castle came to rest in a tree.

Staff and pupils ran to help the injured children and emergency services arrived, with a helicopter landing at the school’s northwest oval in Tasmania.

Despite their best efforts, Peter Dodt, Jalailah Jayne-Marie Jones, Addison Stewart, Jye Sheehan, Zane Mellor and Chace Harrison have passed away.

Three other students were injured but survived after spending several days in hospital.

Deputy Prime Minister Jeremy Rockliff, who visited the school in the aftermath of the tragedy, met with families ahead of the start of the school year.(ABC News: Mote Boville)

“You can only imagine how difficult it would be”

Clinical psychologist Cassie Xintavelonis said for families who had lost a loved one, ‘you can only imagine how difficult it would be’ to see other parents posting photos of their child’s first day back online. at school.

For children and staff returning to Hillcrest Primary, the school has taken to social media to let the community know that it will “handle the return to school with as much care and sensitivity as possible”.

“Supporting the well-being of our students and families is our priority,” the school said.

“There will be a number of additional supports in place to help with the transition over the coming months.”

A woman with brown hair looks out a window
Child psychologist Cassie Xintavelonis says there has been a statewide call for psychologists to help the Hillcrest community.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

The Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Department of Education met with the families of the children who died and those who were injured. These families have also been contacted by the school itself about the return to school program.

In a statement, a Tasmanian government spokesperson said the plan had been developed by the Department of Education with support from the Department of Health.

“This plan includes additional support from the secondary school psychologist and social workers for students and staff, supported reintegration activities and social activities,” the spokesperson said.

“Our thoughts continue to be with those who lost their lives as well as their families, friends and the entire school community.

To support students in their transition to the start of the school year, classrooms will be open on Tuesday to allow children and parents to “reconnect with school, meet their teacher and see their new class”.

“Returning to the site can be difficult for students, staff and families and we will handle this as thoughtfully and carefully as possible,” the school said.

Support escape

The outpouring of grief came not only from the close-knit community of Devonport, but also from people in Tasmania, Australia and around the world.

Thousands of people left flowers, cards and toys in front of the primary school.

Cards and tributes.
Tributes left in the aftermath of the Hillcrest Primary School tragedy have been retained by Devonport City Council.(ABC News)

Devonport City Council collected and preserved the tributes. In the community, the pain and trauma remain.

Ms. Xintavelonis said there has been a statewide call for psychologists to make themselves available to the community.

“I guess that shows what a great community we have here in Tasmania.”

Burning candles on the table.
Tributes were paid to the victims of the Hillcrest Primary School tragedy.(ABC News: April McLennan)

Despite the support offered, Ms Xintavelonis said parents ‘often want to protect our children from things that would hurt them or make them feel uncomfortable, upset or worried’.

She said some families might be reluctant to send their child back to a place where they have suffered significant trauma.

“In the sense of a real place, or a place familiar to the child, yes, there is a traumatic event, but there have also been a lot of positive memories, we assume, in that environment and it could continue to have positive memories there in the future.

Ms Xintavelonis said if parents noticed a significant change in their child – such as their appetite, sleeping patterns or general behavior – that continued for weeks or months, professional help should be sought.

“It’s also important to remember that children are also very resilient, and sometimes there are no troubling thoughts or worries or behaviors that we can see, and that’s fine too,” he said. she declared.


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