Bouncy castle tragedy: Firm charged after six children killed

Mourners leave flowers in front of Hillcrest Primary School
Image caption,Devonport residents left flowers, soft toys and other tributes in front of Hillcrest Primary School in December 2021

By Malu Cursino

BBC News

A bouncy castle firm has been charged for breaching health and safety regulations in Australia, almost two years after six children were killed in an accident.

The children fell about 10m (33ft) after strong winds blew the castle skywards at a school fair.

Prosecutors allege that Taz-Zorb “exposed the children to a risk of death or serious injury”.

Parents of the children who died welcomed the charges.

The six Tasmanian children killed in the accident – Addison Stewart, Zane Mellor, Jye Sheehan, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, Peter Dodt and Chace Harrison – were aged between 11 and 12.

Three other children were seriously injured.

“This was a terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of our beautiful children,” read a joint statement on behalf of Zane, Peter, Addison and Jalailah’s families, quoted by ABC News.

The children were all at the Hillcrest Primary School fair when the accident took place on the last day of term before the holidays in December 2021.

At the time, police said that about 40 children, as well as their teachers and other adults, were at the school fair.

In a note at Chace’s funeral, his parents said their hearts were broken, “our world has changed forever”.

The tragic accident shook Devonport, a city in Tasmania with less than 30,000 residents. The local community gathered last year to mark one year since the bouncy castle accident.

Tasmania’s work health and safety regulator, Robyn Pearce, said she spent the last year meeting with families of children who either died or were injured on 16 December 2021.

On Friday, the region’s workplace safety regulator said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had filed a complaint to the Devonport Magistrates Court.

Quoted by ABC News, Robyn Pearce said: “The DPP has charged Taz-Zorb, the operator of the jumping castle, with a Category 2 offence under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.”

The charge carries a penalty of up to 1.5m Australian dollars (£785,000; $970,000). The BBC has called Taz-Zorb for comment.

Ms Pearce, who works for WorkSafe, said the charges allege that the bouncy castle operator “failed to comply with a health and safety duty in a way that exposed the children to a risk of death or serious injury”.

Quoted by the Guardian, one of the victims’ parents said she still wanted answers about the school’s involvement.

Zane’s mother, Georgina Gardam, said she was glad that the firm had been charged, but added: “I still want answers about the school’s involvement in the tragedy.”

Ms Gardam also said she looked forward to “hearing the outcome of the criminal proceedings and subsequent coronial inquest”.

A wider inquest into the accident had been put on hold until the WorkSafe investigation concluded.

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