Tasmania jumping castle tragedy: Mum reveals final moments with son

·News Editor
·3-min read

The mother of a young boy who died in the tragic jumping castle accident has recalled the final happy moments she shared with her son less than two weeks before Christmas.

Miranda McLaughlin’s 12-year-old's boy, Peter Dodt, was one of six victims who died after a jumping castle was blown into the air during an end-of-year celebration at Devonport's Hillcrest Primary School on Thursday.

The South Australian mother had only recently arrived in Tasmania to see Peter, where he lives with his father, Ms McLaughlin told The Adelaide Advertiser.

The family would routinely spend time together both in South Australia and Tasmania, but Covid restrictions meant it was the first time she had seen Peter and her other children since last Christmas.

"Peter was so happy to see me," she told the paper, recalling how they set up the Christmas decorations just days before the tragedy.

"He put the Christmas tree up and decorated it. He put the star on himself – no one helped him – he was tall enough this year.

"It was one of the last things he did."

Peter Dodt with his mother, left, and by himself trying on glasses on the right.
Peter Dodt's mother had arrived to see him just days before he tragically died. Source: Facebook/Tasmania Police

Ms McLaughlin is reportedly staying in Tasmania as she mourns the boy she described as "the most beautiful person in the world".

"I don’t think we will take the Christmas tree down," she told the paper.

On Sunday afternoon, 11-year-old Chace Harrison was identified as the sixth victim of the jumping castle incident, which saw children fall from a height of about 10 metres.

Two more children remain in a critical condition in Royal Hobart Hospital while another is now recovering at home.

Investigation into jumping castle tragedy ongoing

Police Commissioner Darren Hine said an extensive investigation was being undertaken, but it would take time given the trauma involved and the many families affected.

"The investigation is being led by Devonport Criminal Investigation Branch, with assistance from officers from Launceston CIB, under the direction of the Coroner," he said on Sunday.

"Their priority will be to interview all witnesses, gather and analyse forensic evidence and all environmental aspects, including weather patterns and conditions at the time of the incident.

"Given the magnitude of this critical incident and the need to speak to a large number of traumatised children within a short period of time."

Tasmanian authorities will have help from NSW Police officers who travelled to the state on Sunday and will assist in carrying out interviews with young witnesses over the coming days.

Teddy bears, tributes and flowers sit outside Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport, Tasmania.
Flowers and tributes are seen outside Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport. Source: AAP

Jumping castle operators face 'extensive' regulations

David Eager is the Chairperson of the Australian Standards Committee for Landborne Inflatable Devices as well as a professor of risk management and injury prevention at the University of Technology Sydney.

He says jumping castles in Australia "have to meet some design requirements", including specifications around anchors which tether the inflatable toy to the ground.

"You've got to have enough anchors to maintain the structural integrity ... [and] stop it blowing away in 40 km/h winds," he told RN Breakfast on Monday morning.

The owners and operators of jumping castles are required to meet regular checks with a "quite extensive" annual requirement to conduct checks on the safety of the castle, he said, while on the day extensive checks of the site are required.

It's not the first death of a child relating to a jumping castle being swept up by strong winds in Australia.

In 2001, an eight-year-old girl in South Australia died of head injuries after the castle she was playing in was swept up in a surprise surge of wind.

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