Isabelle Colman, 17, dies when she fell 22 stories off a balcony at her hotel room
Brisbane teenager Isabelle Colman died after a 22-storey fall on Thursday night at the Chevron Renaissance tower complex in Surfers Paradise - the sixth highrise fatality since May last year on the Gold Coast. The younger Queensland schoolies who make a mass exodus from the tourist strip on Saturday will be replaced by their older counterparts from NSW and Victoria from Sunday.
The schoolies support network, safety zones and schoolies-only beach concert areas will be stripped away on Saturday. An added concern is the fact that the older incoming school leavers are free to party in clubs and pubs. Gold Coast City councillor Margaret Grummitt, a former police officer, said the tragedy should serve as a reminder to the importance of educating school leavers about looking after themselves and their friends.
"We believe in education," Cr Grummitt told reporters.
"We push the message that what goes in your mouth, up your nose or into your veins is your responsibility."
The vast majority of southern schoolies will be staying in highrise apartment blocks, but police have linked the danger of partying on balconies to behaviour rather than the design of apartment towers. Gold Coast Schoolies Advisory Board chairman Mark Raeburn said actions such as locking balconies during schoolies celebrations weren't likely to be practical solutions.
"I can almost guarantee that the kids will do their darndest to get the balconies back open and that, of itself, can lead to issues," Mr Raeburn said. Isabelle Colman's school principal has described her death as "the worst nightmare" and says the school is relying on its faith to deal with her loss. Principal Alison Terrey says everyone in the school community, around the inner-west Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove, is feeling the loss of the popular 17-year-old girl.
"We love our students dearly and they know that," she told reporters on Friday.
"It's the worst nightmare that could possibly happen to the family.
"(Isabelle) was really well loved and liked by students."
Police said Ms Colman was alone in the apartment she was sharing with six friends during the schoolies week at the time of her death and hadn't been skylarking on the balcony. Her death isn't being treated as suspicious. Asked if anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy, Assistant Commissioner Graham Rynders simply said: "In this case, absolutely not." A schoolmate of Ms Colman, who wished to remain anonymous, said the popular student with a keen interest in drama was a "beautiful, beautiful girl".
Many school-leavers were still in shock after witnessing the teenager's fall and for them the celebrations were over. "Everyone wants to go home now. There's no party atmosphere anymore," Brisbane school leaver Alana told reporters. Schoolies organisers urged anyone affected by the tragedy to seek help or counselling to deal with their emotions.
"People deal with things in different ways. Some cry, some just are silent," Red Frogs spokesman Mark Gourley said.
"For us it's about being there while they go through the grieving process."
Isabelle Colman spent the past week surrounded by former classmates celebrating the end of their school days on Queensland's Gold Coast. But the Brisbane girl, 17, was alone when she died after falling from a high-rise balcony. Police are still trying to piece together the circumstances leading up to the death of the Mt St Michael's College student on Thursday night.
But they do know she was alone when she fell from the balcony of a unit on the 26th floor of a high-rise accommodation tower. She had not been skylarking before she fell, police said on Friday, and her death is not considered suspicious. Asked if anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy, Assistant Commissioner Graham Rynders simply said: "In this case, absolutely not."
Photos of a blonde teenager have begun surfacing on websites , as those who knew her, and those who didn't, mourn her. Her parents have asked for privacy as they grieve for their daughter who died during a rite-of-passage trip that should have marked a new chapter of her life. "They are deeply traumatised, as you'd expect," Rynders told reporters on Friday.
An army of counsellors has been mobilised to help 'schoolies' - an Australian term for students celebrating the end of school - deal with the death. Some have gone home early to receive support from their families. Among those who have chosen to stay on the Gold Coast are some of Isabelle's schoolmates, who are wearing their year 12 jerseys as a mark of remembrance. On Friday, other school leavers told of witnessing Isabelle's fall on to a fifth-storey pool deck at The Towers of Chevron Renaissance apartment blocks in Surfers Paradise.
Chaplaincy group Red Frogs spent the night providing support and counselling to schoolies, including those evacuated from the apartment tower after the fall."There were literally hundreds of schoolies we were dealing with and we had over 100 Red Frog chaplains in operation around the building," spokesman Mark Gourlay told reporters.
"It's never good to lose a mate ... it really does knock you for six." Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has told the ABC the council would need to look at the issue of balcony access after six recent balcony deaths. But he wants to know the circumstances of the latest death before any decisions are made. Mt St Michael's principal, Alison Terrey, said counselling was being offered to the school community.
"Our deepest sympathy and prayers are with the family," she said in a statement on the Catholic college's website. "Isabelle was an enthusiastic and much loved member of the College community." The statement sais Colman was "particularly interested in drama and the creative arts", and she had been "looking forward to furthering her studies in this area". Terrey and another teacher from the school have travelled to the Gold Coast to support their students. A school friend, who did not want to give her name, described Colman as "the most beautiful, beautiful girl".
"This is the most devastating thing for our school ever,"
Poll: PoliceAre you confident In your police departments?
4079 times read
Rate this article