A 13-YEAR-OLD boy was crushed to death after a rubbish truck picked up the bin he and two others were sleeping in.
Spencer Benbolt and friends 11 and 12, were also sleeping in the industrial bin in Port Lincoln, South Australia.
One managed to escape while the other survived with minor injuries.
As the bin was lifted, one boy managed to jump out and avoided being injured, but the other two, including Spencer, were tipped over as it was lifted into the truck.
The driver was unaware anyone was in the bin until it had already been tipped into the back of the lorry.
The child who escaped, 12, began banging on the truck door to alert the driver.
Spencer, who was known as Budda, suffered serious injuries and died at the scene despite the efforts of paramedics trying to save him.
Devastated friends and family said that the three boys were inseparable, often running away from home together.
Holly Puckridge, a friend of the boy, told 7NEWS that Spencer “was a bright kid and he did everything funny”.
“He asked to stay with us for a couple days and we let him have a sleep over,” she added.
A mother of a friend of the trio, Jess Bettoncelli, said her 12-year-old son often took off with the group, sleeping outside service stations and local sporting grounds with the others.
Three friends 'inseparable'
“He’s very shaken up, he’s I think confused,” she said.
“He’s I guess wondering and suspecting that that could have been him last night.”
Despite Spencer often running away from home and spending rough nights out, police emphasised that he was not homeless.
A statement from South Australia Police said the truck driver was “extremely shaken” by the incident and taken to hospital to be assessed.
South Coast Local Service Area officer in charge Paul Bahr addressed the media later, saying the surviving boys were “traumatised” by what had happened and it would take time to get more details from them.
“The background as to how they’ve ended up in this industrial bin is something that’s really going to take some time to understand,” Superintendent Bahr said.
“It will be a strong part of the coronial investigation that we’ve begun.”
He said the boys were not classified as homeless and had “places to stay … with beds they could sleep in”.
“Dealing with a young child who is suffering significant trauma and not being able to save their life after a lot of effort has gone into attempting to revive him is going to be very difficult to them.
“We’re not aware of any reports of children sleeping in bins in Port Lincoln. This is the first time we’ve become aware of it.
“It’s tragic across a whole number of levels,” Bahr added.
“And that’s just one of the levels of tragedy to this, is why these three children thought they needed to be sleeping in the bin.
Mourners paid their respects to Spencer at the site, with a number of people seen crying and hugging each other and his aunty read out a statement to 9 News Adelaide on behalf of the family.
“Spencer always had a close relationship with his parents, brothers and grandmothers, who he loved and adored,” the statement said.
“He loved hunting, fishing, camping, was a cheeky boy who had a big imagination.”
Veolia Waste Management confirmed to NCA NewsWire one of its waste collection vehicles was involved in the incident.
“Our deepest sympathy is with the loved ones of the deceased, and while we are unable to comment further on the circumstances at present, we are working closely with the emergency services, and a full investigation into the incident is underway,” the company said in a statement.
Port Lincoln Mayor Brad Flaherty said Spencer’s death was “very, very sad” and would have a “significant impact” on the local community that was left “shocked” by the news.
“Port Lincoln has a very strong community and will stand behind the families involved,” he told NCA NewsWire.
In a statement, Mr Flaherty said the council was “thankful” the two other boys were able to escape the horrific situation, and that the incident was “devastating news”.
Adelaide MP Nat Cook shared it on Twitter, branding it an “absolute tragedy”, while Senator Justin Hanson wrote: “How could this happen?”
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