Lost in bush

Lost in the Blue Mountains

Lost teen tried hard to answer operators

Friday, May 1, 2009

An inquest has heard tapes in which David Iredale talks to emergency call operators when lost.


Jan 17, 2010

Dehydrated and lost in NSW’s Blue Mountains, David Iredale tried about 15 times to satisfy emergency operators’ demands for details about his location.

The problem was he was deep in the bush and all the operators seemed interested in was a street address and a town.

It was one of the factors that let him down after he ran out of water and became separated from two friends during a hike in December 2006, an inquest into his death has been told.

Tapes of his calls to Telstra’s emergency call point, which connects mobile users to emergency service operators, were played for the first time at the inquest on Thursday.

In the first call he tells the Telstra triple-zero operator he hasn’t had water for a day and has collapsed.

He says he is near Mount Solitary and the Kedumba River in the Blue Mountains National Park, west of Sydney.

When asked what the nearest town is, the 17-year-old Sydney Grammar student says: “No idea maybe probably Katoomba … probably, may not be”.

In the later calls played at the inquest in the NSW Coroner’s Court at Penrith, he appears to become more and more frustrated when asked for the closest town.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Jeremy Gormly SC, said David had likely repeated “Katoomba” to police, ambulance and the Telstra emergency operators about 14 or 15 times.

In his closing submissions, Mr Gormly went over evidence of how David’s calls for help had been mismanaged.

David had been treated with little empathy or courtesy by NSW Ambulance Service operators, who repeatedly insisted he must give them a street address so help could be sent, he said.

“It’s clear that the triple-zero service failed David and his family … there was a lack of courtesy and empathy,” Mr Gormly told the inquest.

“It contributed to the frustration of his final hours and contributed to delays in finding his body.”

Mr Gormly also emphasised that information about David’s location and condition was not passed on to rescuers.

He called for a full review of the ambulance service’s emergency call system, and for consideration to be given to integrating all emergency agencies’ systems.

“There do seem to have been systemic issues and training issues which suggest the need for a very significant review,” he said.

Counsel representing the ambulance service, Michael Windsor SC, said his client knew of its obligation to improve its operations.

The three Sydney Grammar School students were also working from navigation data sheets with information about water supplies drawn up by their teacher Jim Forbes for a winter hike they had planned to take in June, Mr Gormly said.

The school denies prior knowledge of the planned three-day trip during scorching temperatures in December, but Mr Forbes had helped them plan proposed June trip, the inquest has been told.

“(Mr Forbes) says that if he had been asked about a December trip … his advice about the availability of water on Mt Solitary would have been different because there would not have been the same water retention – there were hot, dry conditions.”

The inquest will resume on Monday with Deputy State Coroner Carl Milovanovich expected to hand down his findings later next week.