A COMMUNITY leader in a remote part of Australia where a 14-year-old Scot collapsed and later died said that the heat in the area had been “extreme” because winds acted like a “heater” to push temperatures as high as 50C.
The teenager was named by local police yesterday as Ewan Williamson of Largs, Ayrshire, who had been on holiday visiting his father, who lives in the town of Geraldton in Western Australia.
The pair had set out at 10am on a 5 kilometre hike known as the Badjirrajirra Trail in the Cape Range National Park, described in hiking guides as “moderately difficult”.
By early afternoon Ewan had become severely dehydrated and collapsed.
Turk Shales, head of the local council, said that unfavourable winds had fanned temperatures in the area in recent days.
“When a wind goes south to south-west, it goes to the top of the cape and it fans – it’s like a heater,” he said.
“The last three or four days have been extreme. It gets very, very hot. I’m just so sorry for them. My heartfelt condolences go out to the family.”
The teenager’s father called the emergency services at 2pm, and the pair were found about 700 metres down a gully, and near the car park of the walk.
Paramedics said that they received a report that the boy was suffering from heat exhaustion and was having difficulty breathing.
He was treated at the scene and as his condition deteriorated he was rushed to nearby hospital, where he died several hours later.
Conditions in the remote Cape Range park can become physically punishing during the Australian summer, with temperatures regularly reaching 50C in between November and March.
Hiking guides describe conditions in the area as being harsh and recommend that “walks should only be attempted between April and September”.
Police said they are preparing a report for the Western Australia State Coroner, and that the teenager’s death was “a tragic accident”.
A police spokeswoman said: “It is a known park and bush track. They were not lost. It is not suspicious, it is just a tragic accident.”
The teenager, whose parents were separated, had been living with his mother in Largs and attended Largs Academy.
A spokesman for North Ayrshire Council last night issued a statement on behalf of the school.
He said: “Members of staff at Largs Academy were informed shortly before the school closed on Friday.
“We would like to extend our sympathies to the family and will offer pupils any support they require when they return to school.”
Friends and fellow pupils in Largs expressed shock at the death.
One academy pupil said: “He was a quiet guy, so I didn’t know him that well, but he seemed nice.
“Everyone’s really shocked by what happened. It was all over Twitter and Facebook on Friday night.”
Rachel Kelly wrote on Twitter: “‘Ewan has left the building’ but I wish he hadn’t left, because Ewan WAS and IS the best.”
One post by Killjoy_Heather said: “RIP Ewan Williamson. You were epic. Gonna miss the banter.”
Nicole England wrote: “R.I.P Ewan Williamson! This is a tragic accident, my heart goes out to each and every family member of yours, gone but never forgotten”. Another posted: “RIP Ewan you were such a lovely boy.”