Scots hiker dies after rescuers ‘couldn’t understand accent’

The Badjirrajirra Trail in the Cape Range National Park.
The Badjirrajirra Trail in the Cape Range National Park.
Share this article
6
Have your say

A SCOTTISH teenager who died in an Australian national park after suffering heat exhaustion was forced to wait an hour for medical attention partly because emergency staff could not understand his father’s accent, a court has heard.

Ewan Louis Williamson, 14, from Largs, Ayrshire, died in 2012 while hiking with his Scottish father on the Badjirrajirra Walk in the North West Cape of Western Australia.

An inquest heard yesterday emergency call handlers struggled to understand his father Gordon’s accent when he phoned to ask for help.

Ewan began to feel faint shortly after they had started the walk at 10am. His father found him shade and gave him some water before they returned to the track to go back to their car, but took a wrong turning and walked far further than planned.

Mr Williamson, 49, told the Western Australia Coroner’s Court that when his son was unable to walk the last 400m to the car, he left him in shade and went to his vehicle at 2pm to phone emergency services.

He said he asked for police help, but the request was not logged as an incident needing immediate attendance. He said the operator could not understand his accent and was not local to the area, so did not understand where he was until he gave GPS co-ordinates.

“It all seemed to take so long,” Mr Williamson said.

When police arrived at 2:58pm, they took a long time to transport his son less than half a kilometre to safety as they did not have a stretcher. Paramedics followed and tried to resuscitate Ewan, but he died in hospital that evening.

A post-mortem revealed his death was consistent with severe heatstroke or exhaustion, complicated by a recent viral illness which inflamed his heart.

The Largs Academy pupil, whose mother Janet Butler lives in the town, had arrived a week earlier in Australia to spend Christmas with his father, in the town of Geraldton.

The inquest continues.