On the second day of the trip, the teens were making their way back down the mountain after a successful hike. At this time, David was separated from the group when he strayed from the path to look for more water. Although the gang prepared for the hike by purchasing food and bringing some water, they didn’t anticipate the riverbanks being dried up due to a drought that Australia was experiencing. This caused problems for the teens as they couldn’t continuously fill up their bottles like they had planned. When David realized water was scarce and he was now separated from the group, he made several calls from his cell phone to the triple-0 service. Due to the lack of training, cooperation and empathy from the operators, they were unable to provide any service to David and ultimately he was found eight days later deceased due to dehydration.
At 11:59 am, David made the first of many calls in attempt to be located; however, he was greeted with nothing but impoliteness and numerous operators who were unwilling to by-pass a simple procedure that is important in most cases, yet in this situation was a road block that prevented service delivery. In all of the calls, David was asked several times what his address was, what road he took, and what suburb he was located in. When David couldn’t provide this information accurately, the operators became frustrated and seemed to close off. David tried to describe to them where he was to the best of his ability spite not having exact markers. On more than one occasion the operator snips asking “where does he want the ambulance sent” which I personally, take as a taunt from the operator signifying they think he is trying to tell them how to do their job.
This particular NSW Ambulance Service call centre had reported a higher than average amount of “prank” calls and because of this I believe the operators had become slightly jaded and didn’t take David’s calls as seriously as they should have. In fact, one operator said she had become very complacent with the job and that she was guilty of not offering the quality of service she should have. I believe that the operators level of seriousness of the incident, combined with the malfunction of the computer system that was reportedly unable to by-pass the first step ( though the supervisor claims it was possible) prevented the information of David’s situation to be accurately documented and processed the way it should have. It took first responders and a search party eight days to find David and it wasn’t until after the fourth day that the NSW Ambulance Service released the fully informative calls to the other emergencies services. In addition, there were many pieces of information left undocumented from the original calls. It turns out, using this additional information that was reported after the fact; responders were eventually able to locate David’s body which was slouched over a log in a dried up riverbank.
After this incident occurred, two of the operators that had handled multiple calls from David were put on a leave. They were ordered to take several more training courses as well as counselling sessions due to the lack of empathy they exhibited in David’s situation. Laura Meade, one of the operators, publically apologized to David’s family as well as to the public for the poor service she provided and for the negative image she portrayed of the service.