MELBOURNE, Australia — Four children were killed and five others hospitalized on Thursday after falling more than 30 feet from an inflatable jumping castle that was lifted into the air by a gust of wind at a school in Australia, the authorities said.
The accident occurred about 10 a.m. at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport, on the Australian island state of Tasmania, the police said. Thursday is the last day of the school year for most Tasmanian children, and the school was having a “big day in” to celebrate, according to a social media post.
“Nine Grade 6 Hillcrest primary school students fell from a height of around 10 meters after a significant local wind event caused a jumping castle and several inflatable ‘zorb’ balls to lift into the air about 10 a.m.,” the police said in a statement.
Ambulances and helicopters were called to the scene, and some children were treated there, while others were taken to a hospital.
Two girls and two boys died, Tasmania’s police commissioner, Darren Hine, told local reporters on Thursday afternoon. Four other children were critically injured, and another was in serious condition, he said. None of the sixth-grade students were immediately identified.
Commissioner Hine declined to say how many children had been on the jumping castle or if it had been secured to the ground. The police were investigating the matter with the state’s health and safety regulator and would prepare a report for the coroner, he said.
After the accident, the school said on social media about 11 a.m. that it was closing for the rest of the day, adding, “We ask that parents come to collect their children as a matter of urgency.”
Devonport is a small city of about 23,000 people in northeast Tasmania. Hillcrest is one of its six primary schools and is on the outskirts of the city.
The school event, which was supposed to run from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., included a slippery slide, dancing and arts and crafts, along with a jumping castle on a school field, according to one Facebook post.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the events “shattering” and “unthinkably 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 be celebrating the last day of primary school, instead we’re all mourning their loss.”
When contacted for comment, Hillcrest Primary School referred a reporter for The New York Times to the Department of Education.
In 2019, two children were killed and 20 others injured after a dust devil swept a jumping castle high into the air in Henan, China. One child was killed in Britain after being thrown from a jumping castle in 2018. Two fairground workers were jailed for three years on charges of manslaughter by gross negligence after a jumping castle blew away in 2016, killing a 7-year-old girl in Essex, England.