SYDNEY (AP) — Christmas lights have been turned off and a candlelight vigil was held in the Australian town where five children died after falling from a bouncy castle that was lifted into the air by a gust of wind.
Three children were still in critical condition in the hospital and one child was discharged following the incident on Thursday in the island state of Tasmania. The dead included three boys and two girls aged 11 or 12.
Children at the Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport were celebrating the end of the school year when a sudden gust of wind lifted the bouncy castle almost 10 meters (33 feet) into the air.
The township, with a population around 25,000, has rallied to support the families of the victims and the wider community around the school where the accident occurred.
A candlelight vigil was held outside the school Thursday night and some residents turned off their Christmas lights out of respect for the victims.
Devonport mayor Annette Rockliff said the tragedy would “undoubtedly rock the close-knit community for a long time.”
“As mayor my heart aches for my community. As a mother and a grandmother, I am rocked to the core. What should have been a day full of fun and celebration for the last day of the school year has ended in an unimaginable way,” said Rockliff, adding that the Australian flag would be flown at half-staff over the town hall.
Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein described the incident as “utterly devastating and heartbreaking.”
A local supermarket worker, who gave her name only as Melissa, was among those placing flowers outside the school, which she said her children had attended years earlier.
“It’s almost unbelievable,” she said. “At work yesterday, you almost could not believe it after hearing what happened.”