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Balcony debate reignited as teen falls to his death during Schoolies

Gold Coast accommodation providers are reeling from yet another tragedy during Schoolies week.

18-year-old Charlie Scott from Montmorency near Melbourne died after plunging from a high-rise balcony at the Hilton Hotel tower in an apparent suicide bid at 2.30am on Friday morning.

Counsellors were made available to the hundreds of former students staying at the Hilton, one of the most popular venues for the high school graduates during the celebrations, and students organised their own minute’s silence in tribute to the Victorian youngster.

In a statement, Hilton said: “It is with deep regret that we confirm a guest at the private residences located at Hilton Surfers Paradise has passed away.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the family and loved ones at this difficult time.”

The city, a mecca for teens from all over Australia gathering to celebrate the end of their school careers, goes to enormous lengths every year to try and protect young party-goers from the effects of drugs, alcohol and predatory adults.

Despite this, Sydney teen Hamish Bidgood fell to his death last year from a balcony at the Surf Regency Holiday Apartments after hallucinating on nitrous oxide gas (Nangs). Isabelle Colman died after falling from a balcony at the nearby Chevron Renaissance during celebrations in 2012.

Hamish Bidgood’s father, Des, says apartments rented out to students over the Schoolies week should have their balcony access blocked off to young party-goers.

Blaming the drugs for his son’s behaviour, he said in the wake of the tragedy: “Hamish is not the first and won’t be the last…This happens all too often.”

The latest tragedy comes a week after Stratacare Australia managing director Jim O’Hare urged bodies corporate and unit owners and managers to take responsibility for balcony safety during Schoolies, his words prompted by the death of a 22-year-old New Zealand man after a fall from Gold Coast accom last Monday.

“Balcony safety must be made a priority, especially with such a tragic reminder this week of how engaging in risky behaviour on balconies can have fatal consequences,” he told The Courier Mail.

“Short of locking balconies – which is certainly an option – school-leavers must clearly understand that if any misbehaviour on balconies occurs, then they will be evicted.”

Just days before the latest tragedy, Gold Coast Safer Schoolies chairman Mark Reaburn said blocking off balconies was an infeasible suggestion.

“You can’t lock balconies. Schoolies are entitled to book,” he told local media.

“That’s really a matter for the Department of Fair Trading, and they’ve made it clear you can’t treat schoolies any differently from other members of the public.

“Schoolies isn’t a compulsory response. The kids don’t have to come and the parents don’t have to make the kids come.

“If the kids come, we’re here to respond to them being here.”

Speaking at the Hilton on Friday, Brisbane State High school-leaver Madison Sweetnam told the Courier Mail she would support balconies being locked during Schoolies.

“It takes away a bit of freedom but what’s the price of freedom – someone seems to die almost every year,” she said.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has called for Schoolies to be shortened to stop teens becoming “burnt out” from partying. The celebrations run from mid-November through to mid-December, with graduates from different states attending over different weeks depending on when their school terms end.

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Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: [email protected]

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4 Comments

  1. The management & body corporate have been warned & had a risk assessment carried out alerting them to numerous high risks associated with having drunk, drugged schoolies on premises for this event. They continue to welcome this behaviour because of the increase in revenue the management & unit owners generate.

    As far as I’m concerned, they’ve all got blood on their hands & have shown wilful neglect of their duty of care.

    1. What utter nonsense,block balconies!What next?
      Accidents happen and will happen.
      Maybe it’s time that young people take responsibility for their action.
      The culture of binge drinking and drugs culture is to blame.
      Media fashionable beat up religion and praise alternate lifestyles, family is downtrodden, behaviour of young people seem to have have no boundaries.

      It is extremely sad that young lives have been lost, but making everyone else pay for it is not fair,.
      More rules and regulations,enough!!!!

  2. Let’s start with the source of these regrettable incidences, the incumbent him or herself being influenced by drugs and alcohol intake and possibly mental health issues. It is not just the schoolies that are at risk but anyone that rents a high rise and is affected by mental issues, drugs and alcohol…..Lock the balcony doors if deemed a risk minimization options if you must but then the same must apply to other demographics. It is a sad outcome that balconies of high rises have become culpable to these incidences…..Drugs in particular are a scourge of society’s lack of control and weak laws that allow convicted pushers to receive early release and continue their trade and create havoc both with driving accidents and balcony incidences…….. Fix the law, be tougher with sentencing and early release protocol……. NHI

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