How a fun day at SeaWorld turned into a tragedy for a Gold Coast family FOUR days after visiting the theme park – as Deklan, 6, fights for his life after becoming entangled in a seemingly harmless souvenir from the trip
- Six-year-old Deklan Babington-MacDonald received the toy at SeaWorld
- The family visited the park a few days before the accident at home with the toy
- Deklan became entangled in part of the toy and his heart stopped for an hour
- The boy remained on life support for a number of days before he was let go
In making a visit to SeaWorld, six-year-old Deklan Babington-MacDonald was doing what thousands of Gold Coast locals do every weekend, little knowing that a souvenir of his trip would prematurely end his life.
While the Gold Coast is famous as the home of Australia’s biggest theme parks, SeaWorld is the most popular with locals because it’s conveniently located on The Spit not far from Surfer’s Paradise.
The six-year-old was playing with the toy at home on ANZAC Day when the accident occurred
SeaWorld is a popular theme park for locals on the Gold Coast because of its close location
DreamWorld and MovieWorld, by comparison, are located at Coomera on the northern Gold Coast and require bigger planning for a ‘day trip’. When the kids are crawling up the walls, SeaWorld is the easy option for a couple of hours of entertainment out of the house.
Dolphins, penguins, polar bears, seals and sting rays never fail to entertain young children.
Deklan likely reached into the open touch pool at ever-popular Ray Reef, where visitors can pat the backs of sting-rays as they glide around the pool.
Deklan’s mother Lauren (right) had kept a bedside vigil beside her son since last Sunday
Deklan was known as a high-spirited kid who had just started Term 2 of Year 1 at school
The toy was similar to this one pictured
He would have pressed his face to glass at Tropical Reef Lagoon to see the large, fearsome sharks swim past his nose. And watched the antics of polar bears Hudson, Nelson and juvenile bear Mishka at Polar Bear Shores.
Perhaps it was while visiting the Penguin Encounter, an indoor exhibit where you can watch cheeky King and Gentoo penguins from above, or while they swim through an underwater viewing window, that Deklan got the idea to ask for the penguin toy involved in his horrific accident a few short days later.
Like any theme park, merchandise is part of the day. Visitors can only exit the park through a large gift shop full of plushie penguins and polar bears, t-shirts, mugs and key-rings.
More merchandise shops and smaller stalls are scattered throughout the property. The toy believed to have been involved in Deklan’s terrible accident – a penguin with a harness attached to a metre-long lead pole – is often seen hanging from a mobile stand outside the smaller ‘pop-up’ merch stalls near the big attractions such as the polar bears.
It’s a common sight to see children ‘walking’ their stuffed penguin or polar bear on the pole through SeaWorld’s vast car park as they leave for the day.
Details of how Deklan managed to use the toy in a way which ended his short life remain unclear but the boy’s cousin Lea Williams said the family expected there would be a coronial inquiry into the accident.
Deklan shows off his Easter bonnet wearing his Willian Duncan State School uniform
Gold Coast police told Daily Mail Australia there were no suspicious circumstances in their initial investigation of the accident, having been called to Deklan’s home last Sunday.
A fundraising campaign set up to support Deklan’s mother Lauren had raised close to $12,500 on Friday afternoon. Donations can be made here.
Daily Mail Australia first alerted SeaWorld to the role of its toy in Deklan’s accident, prompting a statement on Thursday which said the theme park was ‘distressed’ by the boy’s tragic accident and announcing the toy would be withdrawn from sale for the time being.
‘We need to understand the circumstances around what has occurred and will be fully cooperating with any investigation,’ the statement read.
‘We will also be reaching out to Deklan’s family to offer support. We will not be making any further comment until all the facts are known.’
The principal of Deklan’s school, William Duncan State School, would not comment when approached by Daily Mail Australia but all students have been offered access to counselling.
‘As a school community, we will rally together and support each other, while respecting the family’s privacy during this most challenging of times,’ wrote Principal Regan Gant in a letter to parents.