The families of the children killed in the Hillcrest jumping castle tragedy in Tasmania have welcomed the news that charges have been laid against the amusement’s operator.
Chace Harrison, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, Zane Mellor, Addison Stewart, Jye Sheehan and Peter Dodt died after a jumping castle was lifted into the air at Hillcrest Primary School on December 16, 2021.
They were enjoying end-of-year celebrations with classmates on the school’s oval.
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“We welcome the announcement that charges have been laid,” Zane, Peter, Addison and Jalailah’s families said in a joint statement.
“This was a terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of our beautiful children and which has left others both physically and emotionally impacted.
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“We know WorkSafe has worked tirelessly in their investigation into what went wrong on that fateful day and we thank them for their hard work.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the first responders and medical staff who took care of our children.
“We would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the incredibly brave children who ran to the assistance of their injured friends and classmates.”
The victims of the Hillcrest tragedy. Credit: Supplied
“What I and the other families have gone through is awful,” Zane’s mother Georgina Gardam said.
“I am so sad that we have lost children and we can never get them back.
“There was no chance of survival for my poor son Zane.
“I am glad that Taz-Zorb have been charged.
“I want justice for my son and the other families impacted and look forward to hearing the outcome of the criminal proceedings and subsequent coronial inquest.
“I still want answers about the school’s involvement in the tragedy. It has been a long time coming and (it’s) still not over.”
Georgina Gardam at her son Zane’s funeral (right). Credit: AAP
Taz-Zorb has been charged with breaching workplace safety laws.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had filed a complaint in the Devonport Magistrates Court, Tasmania’s workplace safety regulator said on Friday.
“The DPP has charged Taz-Zorb, the operator of the jumping castle, with a category two offence under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012,” WorkSafe Tasmania said.
It is alleged Taz-Zorb failed to comply with a health and safety duty in a way that exposed the children to a risk of death or serious injury.
According to the WorkSafe Tasmania website, corporations face a maximum penalty of $1.5 million if found guilty of category two offences.
Three children were also badly hurt in the incident.
“This decision comes after a significant investigation undertaken by WorkSafe Tasmania staff which involved many months of work,” the regulator said.
“A large number of documents have been prepared and considered by the investigators and the DPP in order to reach this decision.
“As the matter is now before the court, no further information or comment can be provided.”
Court date not yet confirmed
WorkSafe Tasmania head Robyn Pearce said she had met with the families involved throughout the year.
Preparations for an inquest examining the incident were put on hold earlier this year, pending potential charges.
There was a two-year window for charges to be laid under Tasmania’s workplace health and safety laws.
It is not clear when the matter will be first heard in court.
More than $1.4 million was raised for the families affected, while countless messages were left outside the school in the days following.
Chace was remembered as a much-loved big brother and son, with a “cheeky grin” who was often involved in “fun-loving antics”.
“Our hearts are broken. Our world has changed forever. Our love for you will always remain the same,” his parents Teresa and Craig wrote in a message at his funeral.
The tight-knit community of Devonport, on Tasmania’s northwest coast, gathered last December to mark the one-year anniversary.
“The loss of such cherished … children sent shockwaves through the Devonport community, Tasmania and indeed our entire nation,” Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff said at the time.
“We continue to keep the children, their families and their loved ones in our hearts and in our minds.”
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