Tragic Schoolies balcony plunge death

Last updated 13:44 23/11/2012
Fairfax Australia

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.

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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.

She was a student at Mt St Michaels College at Ashgrove.

Her schoolmates who have been on the Gold Coast have 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.

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.

Police have confirmed the death was ''non-suspicious''.

The cohort of school leavers staying in Surfers Paradise and along the Gold Coast are this morning 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.

"It's terrible.''

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 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 through Facebook and Twitter.

''And 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.''

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.

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''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."

Shantelle Turner, from Narangba on the Sunshine Coast, said she was in a high-rise opposite the Chevon tower when she heard a loud scream and turned to see a body fall from a balcony in the dark of the night.

"I [saw] a massive object ... fall and I heard a big bang on the ground," she told Fairfax Radio 4BC.

"I then told my friends and stuff that I thought I just seen a person fall. They didn't believe me.

"I've never seen anyone die before, like it's really shocking."

Ms Turner said she called her mother in tears, after being interviewed by police about what she saw.

"I called my mum after it happened and told her. I was crying telling her I wanted to go home," she said.

The building was locked down after the fall and hundreds of schoolies were evacuated onto the street.

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.

FATAL BALCONY FALLS ON THE GOLD COAST IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS

* Nov 22, 2012 - A 17-year-old girl, believed to be a schoolie, plunges to her death from a balcony on the 22nd floor of a Surfers Paradise highrise.

* Oct 23, 2012 - Ty Thornton, 19, falls 10 storeys while allegedly attempting to rob a unit at Beachcomber Resort.

* Oct 22, 2012 - Jordan Bailo, 23, falls two storeys from Oracle apartment building.

* Oct 15, 2012 - Tamati Luke, 25, falls 10 storeys from Marriott Resort while taking photographs.

* Dec 22, 2011 - Man, 50, falls eight storeys at Burleigh Heads.

* May 11, 2011 - Tumara Cousins falls 31 storeys from Beachcomber Resort. Two men are accused of his murder.

* If you are struggling with depression, visit http://www.lifeline.org.nz/ or call a counsellor on 0800 543 354

- FFX Aus

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