Distraught children laid floral tributes at a Sydney school on Wednesday after two eight-year-old boys were killed by a car that smashed into their classroom, as the driver expressed her deep sorrow over the tragedy.
The incident unfolded at the Banksia Road Public School on Tuesday when the car ploughed into a wooden classroom building with 24 students inside.
Two boys bore the brunt of the impact and died, while three young girls are fighting for their lives, leaving the community in shock.
The 52-year-old woman driver, Maha al-Shennag, has been charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death and with negligent driving.
Police have indicated the crash was being treated as non-intentional.
Her lawyer Nick Hanna told Sydney's Daily Telegraph
she was "deeply sorry for the loss and hurt suffered by the children, the school, the families and the community."
"Her thoughts and prayers are with all those affected," he added.
Al-Shennag, reportedly a widowed mother-of-four who was dropping off a child at the school, has had her licence suspended. She was bailed to appear in court on November 29.
The school opted to open as usual on Wednesday, with counsellors on hand to support returning children, many in tears as tributes, flowers and teddy bears were left at the school gates.
"I cannot begin to comprehend the sadness being felt by the parents and families of the two young boys who have died in the tragic accident at Banksia Road Public School," New South Wales state Education Minister Rob Stokes said.
"My thoughts and prayers are with their families and the entire school community."
A local shopkeeper, who did not want to be named, said she knew the dead boys.
"They would come into our shop wanting lollies and playing games," she told AFP.
"It has affected every single person we know. As a shop owner, and customers coming in and out, everyone is talking about it, it is really, really devastating."
Ambulance workers said they arrived to "a scene of carnage" with one father describing lifting the car off a dying boy.
He said another badly injured classmate, who later died, lay a few feet away.
"He was saying 'I want my mum'. She wouldn't have got to see him before he died."