Boy died 'because emergency services operator couldn’t understand his father’s Scottish accent'

Police arrive one hour after the emergency call for help was made and did not bring a stretcher

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The Independent Online

A teenager who died in the Australian outback from heat exhaustion had to wait an hour for medical help, partly because the emergency services couldn’t understand his father’s Scottish accent, an inquest has heard.

Ewan Louis Williamson, 14, from Largs, Scotland died in 2012 on the Badjirrajirra Walk, in Cape Range National Park, Western Australia while hiking with his father, Gordon Williamson.

Mr Williamson, 49, told the Western Australia coroner’s court on Tuesday he had phoned for help at 2pm, when his son became ill and could no longer walk, reported the Scotsman.

However, the request was not logged as an emergency because the operator could not understand his accent.

Help was further delayed as Mr Williamson was not a local and was not sure on the GPS co-ordinates of their location.

Ewan had become unwell shortly after beginning their hike at 10am, when the temperatures were reported to be 48 degrees Celsius, according to the Scottish newspaper, the Daily Record.

After deciding to turn back to the car, the pair realised they had become lost. Mr Williamson left his son to phone for help. 

The teenager was conscious, but could not carry on, and stayed in the shade next to Badjirrajirra Creek, just 400 metres from the car.

Initially Mr Williamson had not thought his son’s case to be life threatening. Upon returning, Ewan was semi-conscious and having small seizures, reported WA Today, which prompted the father to suggest the emergency services send an air ambulance.

When the police arrived at 2.58pm, officers did not bring a stretcher and “took a long time” to carry the teen to transport him less than half a kilometre.

Paramedics attempted to resuscitate the teen, but he was pronounced dead in hospital that evening.

The inquest heard how the father and son were experienced hikers and had walked extensively together in New Zealand previously, reported WA Today.

A post-mortem revealed the cause of his death to be heatstroke or exhaustion. This was complicated by a recent viral illness, which had inflamed the heart, reported the Scotsman.

The teenager had gone to Australia a week earlier to spend the Christmas period with his father, who lived in the town of Geraldton, 420 km (260 miles) north of Perth.

The inquest continues.