Gun scare forces closure of school
TWEED River High School was locked down for 45 minutes yesterday amidst fears a gunman was at large in the school grounds. The incident, which happened about 3pm as students were sitting their HSC exams, caused the school to be turned into a fortress on the advice of the police. Just 24 hours earlier on the other side of the world a Finnish student had gone on a rampage, killing seven pupils and the principal before shooting himself. A NSW Education department spokesman confirmed the Tweed River High incident to the Daily News, saying no students had been hurt. "It is believed a gun changed hands outside the school entrance," he said. "The students' welfare is always our priority and we are glad that nobody was hurt in this incident." When Daily News photographer Craig Sadler and I arrived at the school to cover a HSC-related story at the same time yesterday, the school entrance was locked, with the staff milling inside. Tweed River High School principal Narelle Howell immediately asked us to leave the school grounds. "I can't tell you what happened but it is really serious," Ms Howell said. "You need to leave the grounds for security reasons." A group of HSC students who had just finished their Information Technology exams were also asked to leave the premises. Student Chris Watt, 18, said he did not know what was going on. "We were all asked to leave," he said. Soon after, two police cars arrived at the school and officers spoke at length with Ms Howell and other members of her staff. A parent, who had come to pick up her children, approached me for information fearing for the safety of her children. Police then left the school premises to continue their search for the alleged culprits on Minjungbal Drive. Identified as Aboriginal males in their teens, one of the suspects was believed to be wearing a navy blue cap and blue pants and was seen to have stuffed a silver pistol down the front of his pants. One of the youths was apparently spotted riding an old green dragster bike and heading towards Coolangatta. Two police cars patrolled Duranbah before going to Enid Street in Tweed Heads where five police officers and a plain clothes detective questioned separately two males matching the description of the suspects. One of the youths was wearing a white cap, dark blue t-shirt with a Nike slogan and a blue shorts. The other was clad in a black T-shirt and a pair of white shorts. At one point one of the boys could be seen making a phone call on his mobile, while the other sat on the kerb surrounded by police officers. After questioning lasting nearly 30 minutes the two youths were allowed to leave. Police officers then began to search inside cars parked on the street. Other officers searched the contents of a nearby skip bin. Neighbours crowded the street on both sides yelling abuse at the police and the suspects. Tweed River High School could not be contacted for comment late yesterday, but the NSW Education department said the HSC exams were not interrupted. "I can't remember an incident like this happening up here," the department spokesman said. "I am sure that if it is discovered that students were involved in this incident doing something illegal then disciplinary action will be taken." Late yesterday police could not confirm rumours one of the suspects was a former student of the school. Neither could they confirm whether or not the reports about the gun were were from current students or whether the gun had been sighted on school grounds.