'IT'S INCREDIBLE': Amazing response after jumping castle tragedy

·5-min read

More than $1.13 million has been raised through a GoFundMe page for the families whose children were killed in the the jumping castle tragedy in Tasmania.

On Thursday, a gust of wind sent a jumping castle 10 metres into the air during the end of year celebration at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport.

Eleven-year-old Addison Stewart, and Zane Mellor, Jye Sheehan, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, Peter Dodt, all 12, lost their lives, while three others are in a critical condition.

The organiser of the GoFundMe page, Zoe Smith, says she has been overwhelmed by the massive inpouring of donations. 

Speaking to reporters alongside the mayor of Devonport Saturday morning, Ms Smith said the money would now be added to a broader fund now being established in the wake of the tragedy. 

"It's just beyond anything we could have thought possible," she said. 

More than $1 million has been donated after Tasmanian local Zoe Smith sought to raise $1000 for families affected by the tragedy. Source: ABC News
More than $1 million has been donated after Tasmanian local Zoe Smith sought to raise $1000 for families affected by the tragedy. Source: ABC News

"People should just be so proud of themselves and the amount that they have donated. It's incredible.

"We just want to acknowledge that originally the plan was to give the $1,000 that I aimed to raise to all the families, but we have just been overwhelmed by how much people have donated," she said.

Instead, along with the local council and state government, a fund has been set up to help the families affected, with the GoFundMe donations to be included.

"I'm so proud of our community for donating and how generous they have been. The plan moving forward is to move this money into the fund. And through the committee of myself and the mayor and the other members, to distribute that fairly and to make sure that that goes to the best place and to make sure that it reaches all the families and the people surrounding that community," Ms Smith explained.

According to Devonport mayor Annette Rockliff, the fund will be overseen by Zoe Smith who organised the GoFundMe, the principal of the school where the tragedy unfolded, as well as a representative from the local government and an official from the state premier’s office.

"It will support the families, it will go directly to those families and that community," Ms Rockliff said.

The Tasmanian premier has announce half a million dollars in funding to address the hardship stemming from the incident, while the federal government says it will make funding of up to $800,000 available for counselling services for the local community.

Five children were killed when a jumping castle was blown 10 metres into the air during end of year celebrations at a Tasmanian school. Source: Tasmania Police
Five children were killed when a jumping castle was blown 10 metres into the air during end of year celebrations at a Tasmanian school. Source: Tasmania Police

Ms Smith explained she had no relation to the families, but was compelled to do something simple to help out.

"I was moved by the tragedy at Hillcrest Primary School and wanted to do something to support the families throughout Christmas," she said on the GoFundMe page. 

As of Saturday morning, the page had recorded more than 15,000 donations totalling $1,131,330.

Another GoFundMe, raising money for Zane Mellor's mother has raised over $53,000.

"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," Grace Johnston wrote on GoFundMe.

"Georgie [Zane's mother] is the most amazing mum, she never gave up and was by his side every step of the way encouraging, loving and fighting for him."

The GoFundMe was set up to help Zane's mother out financially as she won't be able to work.

People leave flowers and tributes outside Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport, Tasmania, Friday, December 17, 2021.
The death toll from a freak jumping castle accident at a primary school in Tasmania's northwest remains at five, and three children are in hospital after one was allowed to go home. Source: AAP

Ms Johnston said the tragedy at Hillcrest Primary School has shaken the community.

Peter Dodt's aunt Tamara Scott also set up a fundraising page, describing her nephew as a young boy who was full of life and adventures.

The page has raised over $14,000.

Meanwhile Addison Stewart's aunt, Meg Aherne, said she was trying to help her niece's family pay for a funeral and to pay off some bills.

"They have another daughter and son to take care of and I'm hoping to alleviate some of the stress of bills," she said.

"Everyone is devastated, she was always such a sweet kind, old soul - We all love you Paddi Melon."

Ms Aherne has raised over $50,000 so far.

Emergency services personnel on scene at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport, Tasmania, Thursday, December 16, 2021.
Several children have suffered serious injuries in northwest Tasmania after falling about 10 metres from a jumping castle that was blown into the air. Source: AAP

Police are examining whether the inflatable castle was tethered properly at the time of the incident at the school and the accident is being examined by the coroner.

Jumping castles have now been banned from all state schools in the wake of the tragedy. 

Tasmania's Department of Education has put together a list of trauma support resources following the accident, with links for parents to help them support their children and information to help parents best protect their own mental health.

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