Teenagers, some not yet 17, walked Surfers Paradise Boulevard yesterday dazed and in tears.
Carrying the emotional trauma of losing one of their own, their young faces were etched with disbelief.
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The party is over for many at schoolies in Surfers Paradise, after the tragic death of Isabelle Colman who fell from a Gold Coast highrise on Thursday.
They clung to each other for support and rallied around those who most struggled to comprehend the tragedy that had befallen the graduating class of 2012.
On Thursday night, Isabelle Colman from The Gap in Brisbane's west, plunged to her death from a 26th floor balcony at Chevron Renaissance Towers in Surfers Paradise onto the fifth-floor pool deck below.
Within 30 minutes, news of her death had spread among schoolies staying along the Gold Coast, with hundreds of teenagers gathering outside the Chevron towers, where many sat on the ground shaking.
Senior police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the 17-year-old talented drama student from Mt St Michael's College at Ashgrove. Isabelle was alone in her room before she fell about 9.30pm, investigators said.
A school friend, who requested not to be named, said “Izzy” was “the most beautiful, beautiful girl”.
“She never, ever said a mean thing ever,” she said.
All Hallows' School graduates Kristy James and Krissy O'Farrell were among those who rushed to the towers upon hearing the news.
"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," Ms James 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 was planning to return to Brisbane last night.
"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."
A steady stream of schoolies started leaving the Gold Coast yesterday, with many seeking the comfort of home.
"It's literally your worst nightmare," said one parent, as she came to collect her distraught daughter from Surfers Paradise.
Seven days ago, more than 21,000 teenagers congregated on the Gold Coast with nervous excitement for the week-long schoolies celebration – the rite of passage between their 12 years of schooling and the beginning of their young adulthood.
For six days the teens, high on new-found freedom, danced on the the sand, drank, chased the opposite sex and enjoyed an all-round good time in the sun and surf.
This year's graduates had largely heeded their parents' warnings, gaining the praise of police as being among the most well-behaved for years.
But a sombre mood washed over the Gold Coast yesterday, as young school leavers were confronted with the fragility of human life.
Ms O'Farrell was in tears as she remembered Isabelle as a "lovely girl".
"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."
Isabelle, the youngest daughter of well-known Queensland sports columnist and commentator Mike Colman, was the captain of class 12G at Mt St Michael's College.
The college's principal Alison Terrey said the school community was "deeply saddened".
"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," she said.
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 yesterday, 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.
On her return to the college, Ms Terrey said 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.
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.
– Additional reporting by Natalie Bochenski