Girl dies in schoolies balcony fall
A 17-year-old Brisbane girl has died after falling from a high-rise balcony in Surfers Paradise during the first week of schoolies celebrations.PT0M56S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-29vi6 620 349 November 23, 2012
- Teenagers shocked
- Mayor urges schoolies to take care
- 'Everyone wants to go home'
- Condolences from school and community leaders
- Death 'not suspicious'
- Organisers offer support
Police have identified the schoolie who fell from a Gold Coast high-rise balcony as 17-year-old Isabelle Colman from The Gap in Brisbane's west.
Isabelle Coleman fell from a Gold Coast highrise this morning.
She was a student at Mt St Michael's College at Ashgrove.
Her schoolmates who have been on the Gold Coast gathered at Circle on Cavill apartments, which neighbours the tower where she fell.
The girls, many of whom are wearing their year 12 jerseys, were consoled by Red Frogs volunteers.
Schoolies shocked at Isabelle's tragic death say they want nothing more than to return home.
Schoolies leave the Chevron Renaissance at Surfers Paradise after a teenage girl plunged to her death from a balcony at the hotel. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
A sombre mood has washed over the Gold Coast as young teenagers, who were just last night celebrating the end of their high school years, now struggle to come to terms with the death of their peer.
Isabelle fell to her death from a balcony on the 26th floor of the Chevron Renaissance's third tower onto the fifth floor pool deck about 9.30pm.
A crowd gathers at the scene of the fatal accident. Photo: @tomforbes72
Police confirmed the death was ''non-suspicious''.
Schoolies on the Gold Coast this morning were walking the streets dazed and in tears.
Outside the towers, teenage girls, many in disbelief, clung to each other for support.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate speaks to media following the Chevron Renaissance incident. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Meanwhile, Red Frogs chaplains gathered distraught teens together and chaperoned them past a waiting media pack.
A school friend, who did not want to be named, said “Izzy” was “the most beautiful, beautiful girl”.
“She never, ever said a mean thing ever,” she said.
Schoolies console each other outside the Chevron Renaissance. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Isabelle was the home group captain of class 12G and she excelled at drama.
All Hallows' School graduate Krissy O'Farrell was in tears as she remembered the "lovely girl" who lost her life.
"She was just a lovely girl," she said.
Schoolies console each other outside the Chevron Renaissance. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
"She was always so friendly and kind to people. She was really into drama.
"I can't comprehend that it actually happened. It's just so terrible, it's so tragic."
Kristy James, also an All Hallows' graduate, said schoolies rushed to the towers as the news of the tragedy spread.
"We walked back and we ran into one of Krissy's friends and she was shaking, because she had seen the girl fall off the balcony," she said.
Ms O'Farrell added: "We raced back here as fast as we could and sure enough there were ambulances and police here."
The girls and their friends spent the early hours of the morning sitting in their apartment silent and shocked.
"We didn't know what to do with ourselves," Ms O'Farrell said.
The pair is returning to Brisbane today.
"We can't bear to stay here when someone so close to us has died," Ms James said.
"Just last night we were celebrating, you know, just having a good time ... and now this."
Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate has expressed his condolences to the Colman family, saying "it's quite emotional".
"Our heart's out there for the family," he said.
"If these students today are feeling hurt and are upset about it ... go out and talk and get some comfort," he said.
Cr Tate encouraged schoolies traveling to the Gold Coast from New South Wales next week to look after their mates.
"Yes enjoy yourself and enjoy the lifestyle we have to offer you [but] party safe and look after your mates," he said.
"If [your mates] look like they're having too much, or look like they're getting themselves into trouble, stand up for them. Take them home, put them to bed, then enjoy the next day."
Gold Coast councillor Margaret Grummitt - a former police officer of 30 years credited with establishing the Schoolies Hub - said Surfers Paradise was still safe for young revellers.
"I would much rather see them here in Surfers Paradise, where there's a safety net," she said.
"They're going to Bali now where we've got no control. I would rather see young people here than in Bali."
School leavers staying in Surfers Paradise and along the Gold Coast were reeling from the news.
''Everyone's devastated. Everyone wants to go home,'' Zara Simon told Fairfax Radio 4BC.
''I'm going home now. I'm trying to get my bag and we're going.
''We're supposed to be going home tomorrow, but no, most people are leaving today.
''Schoolies is supposed to be holiday, it's supposed to be fun, but someone died.
Ms Simon said her friend, who saw Isabelle fall to her death, was ''pretty shaken up''.
''He's not very good at all,'' she said.
Another schoolie, known only as Kelly, said her friend also witnessed the incident.
''One my friends was actually on our balcony when it happened ... it was just horrific,'' she said.
''They just wanted to get out. They didn't know [what] to do. She's in shock.''
Kelly said hundreds of schoolies gathered outside the Chevron towers last night, with many sitting on the ground shaking in shock, as news of the death spread rapidly via Facebook and Twitter.
''Everyone was just sitting here shaking. No one knew what was happening. It was really scary,'' she said.
''Our parents are texting us asking if it's us ... everyone just didn't know who it was or what was happening down there.
''We're just shaken up.
''I want to go home today. It's the worst.''
Mt St Michael's College principal Alison Terrey said the school community was "deeply saddened" by Isabelle's death.
"This is a tight knit community, we love our students dearly, and they know that and we are deeply saddened by what has happened in this event," she said.
"It's the worst nightmare that could possibly happen to the family. They've had three girls in the college, this was their youngest daughter. We know them very well, and please keep them in your prayers as well."
Ms Terrey said Isabelle was a "delightful young woman" who was well loved and liked by her fellow students.
"She was a class captain, so she was respected by her peers and by her teachers. She carried out those responsibilities really well. She had a great interest in photography, in drama and the creative arts, and she was hoping to continue her studies at QUT in that area."
Ms Terrey visited students still on the Gold Coast earlier today, and said they were comforting each other.
"But this is a deeply sad time for them, and the worst way schoolies could end," she said.
She also said on her return to the college, she found its reception area "flooded with flowers" from mourners.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman urged schoolies to take care and watch our for their mates.
“It’s not a day for recrimination, what ifs and deliberations about what might have happened; it’s a day for the family to mourn,” he said.
“The Ashgrove community, the school of Mt St Michael’s, everybody is mourning today and I just want the family and friends to know that I’m thinking of them and all my team is thinking of them.
“This is a terrible day for them and indeed for everybody in the local community.”
Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said Isabelle's death had affected the entire Brisbane community.
"I just want to express my sympathy to the family and to the friends of the young teenage lady who was killed overnight," Cr Quirk said.
The lord mayor said the tragedy was a "very, very sad way" to end a week of celebration for teenagers.
"This has affected the whole of the Brisbane community and it is just so very sad to see," he said.
Meanwhile, police say the teenager was alone in the unit when the incident happened and that there was no inappropriate behaviour on the balcony before the fall.
Assistant police commissioner Graham Rynders said he could not comment on whether the incident was an accident, other than to say the teenager’s death, which was witnessed by six people, was not suspicious.
He said the family of the girl was deeply traumatised and were asking for privacy.
‘‘[This has] put a very dark cloud over this schoolies,’’ he said.
Gold Coast Schoolies Advisory Group chairman Mark Reaburn said teenagers were wandering the streets of Surfers Paradise this morning looking shocked and dazed.
''Its very solemn here. You can see it with kids walking around now, it's very solemn,'' he said.
''Schoolies for the kids has turned from a celebration to a very traumatic time. It's going to be a very difficult day and night.
''We've had a lot of very traumatised kids. It's an absolute tragedy for family and friends - and it's impact across all of the kids - it's been devastating.''
Mr Reaburn said the Red Frogs chaplaincy service was counselling teenagers last night and would continue to do so throughout the day.
''Our welfare network swung into action last night,'' he said.
''We'd certainly say to parents if they're concerned for their kids by all means come and collect them, but use the welfare network that we can offer.''
Queensland police inspector Pat Swindells told reporters last night it was a horrible end to an otherwise good start to schoolies.
"Young people who've come to Surfers Paradise have been exemplary in their behaviour and this is a very tragic incident that has occurred during what has been a very good week."
Police are preparing a report for the coroner.
In the wake of the incident police are appealing for schoolies to enjoy their last night at the event safely.
This is the sixth death from a balcony fall on the Gold Coast in the past 12 months.
Earlier this week, 18-year-old Cameron Cox lying on the ledge of a Gold Coast high rise sparked renewed warnings.
- Additional reporting by Tony Moore and Natalie Bochenski