A mother whose 12-year-old son was killed in Tasmania’s jumping castle tragedy was blocked from him for almost a year by Covid border closures until she was finally allowed a quick visit.
Just five days after she arrived from South Australia, Miranda McLaughlin’s son, Peter Dodt, was one of six children killed in the horrific accident in Devonport.
A ‘mini-tornado’ swept the jumping castle into the air and Peter and his classmates fell 10m to their deaths on their last day at Hillcrest Primary School.
Ms McLaughlin hadn’t seen Peter or her daughters Cassie and Chloe since last Christmas because they live with their father Andrew in Tasmania and state borders kept closing.
When restrictions finally eased in December, the mother-of-nine told Daily Mail Australia that she and her toddler Dylan jumped on a plane to Devonport last week.
Unbeknown to her, it would be the last time she would see Peter alive.
He was killed in the incident, along with his classmates Jye Sheehan, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones and Zane Mellor, all age 12, and Addison Stewart and Chace Harrison who were both 11.
Two others are fighting for life in hospital, and one has been released to recover at home.
Ms McLaughlin was grateful she spent those last few days with ‘our little ginger ninja’ before the devastating accident, and remembered him as a happy boy with a big heart.
‘Peter was full of life, always making people smile with his antics. His heart was bigger than the world,’ she said.
‘Words cannot explain what a beautiful soul he was or the loss we feel without him, forever in our hearts.’
Peter’s father Andrew Dodt had full custody of his three children.
The boy’s aunt Tamara Scott broke down on Friday morning when telling Daily Mail Australia that the boy’s father Andrew Dodt was ‘beyond shattered’.
‘He went to the school this morning to collect his school bag – he felt he had to do that, and he just cuddled it and cried,’ Ms Scott said.
The devoted aunt explained Andrew and Peter shared a special bond.
‘He loved his dad with everything he had. It was him and his dad against the world,’ she said.
On Thursday night, Andrew wrote a heartfelt tribute to his ‘baby boy’.
‘My baby boy Peter Dodt has grown his wings this afternoon and left me so heart broken,’ he shared on Facebook.
‘I would do anything in this world just to have him back.
‘Dad loves you so much. Peter, till I see you again in heaven xxxx.’
Tasmania’s education department confirmed they have ‘put a hold on the use of jumping castle-style equipment until the results of the investigation are known’.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was seen comforting his wife as she broke down while laying flowers outside the school.
The bouquets were left with a handwritten note which read: ‘In loving memory of these beautiful children who are no longer with us’.
‘Our hearts break for the families and the community left behind. Thinking of you all. With love and sympathy, Jen, Scott, Abbey and Lilly.’
A police investigation is underway to determine whether the jumping castle was tethered to the ground correctly before disaster struck.