Parents outraged – Students in narrow fire escape

A WASLEYS father, who lost his house in last week’s Pinery fire, has lashed out at the local school for allegedly allowing his young daughter to walk home alone while flames bared down on the township.
Travis Toft said his daughter Lucy, 9, is lucky to be alive after she was plucked from the main street by evacuating residents just minutes before the fire front reached the town.
The Toft’s home adjoins the Wasleys post office and was one of several buildings in the local area destroyed in the blaze.
Mr Toft, a single dad, was in Gawler at the time of the fire, unable to return home because of roadblocks, and said he fears what could have happened if local residents Dawn and Lew Richter had not seen Lucy in the street and taken her with them to safety.
“They saved my daughter’s life and if it wasn’t for them I don’t know what would have happened… she could have perished in the fires,” he said.
“She’s still here and I’m grateful for that and I’m grateful to Dawn and Lew for saving her.”
Lucy is not the only child alleged to have been released from Wasleys Primary School on Wednesday afternoon.
Rebecca (surname withheld), said her 11-year-old daughter was found wandering alone, unable to see and breath clearly because of heavy smoke and ash in the air.
“Teija was choking walking down the street, she couldn’t see anything, so it was bad and it (the fire) had to be in town already by the time they sent those kids out,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca said Teija was found by a stranger and, thankfully, dropped home to relatives, just moments before the fire front swept through their street.
“You just don’t allow kids out of a school without permission,” she said.
“I’m just so shocked that they’ve done that.”
Both Rebecca and Travis said they will not be sending their children back to Wasleys Primary School and are calling for a serious review of its protocols.
“How can I send my daughter back to that school when I don’t trust them?” Mr Toft asked.
“Words can’t describe how angry I am.”
A statement from the education department said it is currently investigating the claims.
“Student welfare is a top priority of the department,” a spokesperson said.
“These are serious claims, and we are currently investigating.
“We have been in contact with the parents and are offering our support to them.”
State Education Minister Susan Close said she is concerned by the reports.
“I am so relieved that all of our students are safe after the devastating bushfire,” she said.
“I am concerned about these reports and will await the outcome of the department’s investigation.”

Ellouise Crawford

@ElleCrawford90

Ellouise Crawford joined The Bunyip in April, 2010, while completing a Bachelor of Journalism at the University of South Australia. Ellouise wrote The Bunyip’s Playford Times before joining the editorial team full-time in late-2011. She now covers the Light Regional Council region and enjoys writing about Gawler’s strong heritage, as well as its many passionate and inspirational residents. Ellouise grew up in Gawler and now lives in Wasleys with her family.

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