Lawyer prepares compensation case for jumping castle tragedy survivors

Two families whose children survived the Tasmanian jumping castle tragedy which claimed six young lives have engaged a law firm to prepare a case for compensation for their injuries.

The children were among nine attending end-of-school-year celebrations at Hillcrest Primary School, in Devonport, in northern Tasmania, in December when a gust of wind flung the jumping castle and some enclosed plastic “zorb” balls they were playing in 10 metres into the air.

Tributes left at Hillcrest Primary School following the death of five children in a jumping castle accident in December. Credit:Marta Pascual Juanola

Six children died, and three others were injured, when they fell to the ground.

Tom Goudkamp, of Sydney law firm Stacks Goudkamp, is preparing a compensation case for two of the injured boys, with plans to launch proceedings after a coronial inquiry is complete.

One of Goudkamp’s clients fell from the jumping castle and the other was playing in a zorb ball, he said.

“They suffered pretty bad injuries and it will be a long time before they know what the long-term outlook will be,” he said.

The children’s growth had been affected with fractures, he said, and the families were “still waiting to see what the long term psychological trauma is going to look like”.

Goudkamp, who has practised compensation law for 40 years, said the incident was one of the worst tragedies he had come across. “People were shocked all around the world,” he said.

At the time of the tragedy, Tasmania Police said they would investigate whether the jumping castle was tethered at the time the gust of wind struck.

Tasmania’s coronial division of the Magistrates Court said in a statement this month that coroner Olivia McTaggart had received evidence from the police investigation, while the court was due to receive evidence from a WorkSafe investigation.

The court will then also consider retaining relevant experts from meteorological, engineering and scientific fields, the statement said.

Taggart said she was giving priority to scheduling the inquest as soon as reasonably possible.

“It is hoped that all evidence, including all necessary expert opinion, will be received within coming months,” the court said.

“Unfortunately, it is very difficult to provide precise timeframes for completion of the investigation.”

Goudkamp said questions remained about whether the jumping castle was tied down and whether the school children should have been allowed to use the zorb balls. He is preparing the case now because he said seeking damages could be lengthy, but does not plan to proceed with it until the coroner has made her findings.

“We are anticipating there will be a case depending on what the coroner finds” he said.

“Then it’s a question of will, or to what extent should, children and members of families who lost children be compensated under the common law for pain and suffering.”

The law firm is reaching out to interview witnesses, including workers who were on the school roof at the time, and has engaged the Tasmanian Department of Education.

Goudkamp said he had also been in contact with the insurance company acting for Launceston-based jumping castle operator Taz-Zorb. The Age contacted Taz-Zorb for comment.

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