The grieving family of one of six students killed in Tasmania’s bouncy castle tragedy has lashed out at the justice system as the deadline for filing criminal charges approaches.
Hillcrest Elementary School students Zane Mellor, 12, Jye Sheehan, 12, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, 12, Peter Dodt, 12, Addison Stewart, 11, and Chace Hamilton, 11, died when a bouncy castle and several inflatable Zorb balls were lifted. 10 meters in the air in a strong gust of wind in December 2021.
Three other people were also seriously injured in the tragedy, but almost two years later no charges have been laid – but have yet to be ruled out.
Grieving families now face a new battle, urgently calling for the removal of time restrictions on filing charges.
In Tasmania, workplace safety laws state that charges must be laid within two years of an incident.
With that deadline fast approaching, there are only three months left to file potential charges.
One distressed parent described the process of seeking justice as “horrible in every sense of the word”.
Hillcrest Primary School students Zane Mellor, 12, Peter Dodt, Addison Stewart, Chace Harrison, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones and Jye Sheehan (pictured top left clockwise) died in the bouncy castle tragedy
Prosecutors only have until December 16 to file charges in the bouncy castle tragedy at Hillcrest Elementary School (photo)
“The two-year limit should be officially lifted,” they said 7news.com.auhighlighting that the trauma has extended beyond the affected families to include teachers, staff, students, first responders, Hillcrest hospital staff and the wider Tasmanian community.
Adding to the families’ nightmare, preparations for an inquest into the students’ deaths were suspended in February.
The inquest was told WorkSafe Tasmania refused to hand over the documents to the coroner because it could harm the regulator’s own investigation and possible prosecution.
The Tasmanian Supreme Court heard in July that the documents included an engineer’s report and statements from three TaZorb employees and two Department of Education staff.
WorkSafe Tasmania lawyer Michael O’Farrell SC told the court disclosure of the documents could compromise possible prosecutions and further investigations.
The families are demanding the removal of the deadlines imposed for filing complaints. Pictured, broken residents pay their respects a day after the tragedy at Hillcrest Elementary School.
He said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had a WorkSafe Tasmania report and was still considering whether to prosecute.
“The matter is still under investigation, and this is an important part of our claim in this case,” O’Farrell said.
He said granting the coroner access to documents could lead to a scenario where the DPP could say there was not enough admissible evidence to prosecute.
The coroner’s inquest has concluded and witnesses have made statements.
Flowers, stuffed animals and tributes are seen outside Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport, Tasmania in December 2021.
The Devonport community will mark the second anniversary of the tragedy in December. Pictured are the 2022 first anniversary commemorations.