25 August 2022

ESA, coroner conducting review into 13-year-old's death

| Claire Fenwicke
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Fire trucks

Investigations by both the ESA and police were underway into the emergency response to a sick child in the ACT earlier this month. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

ACT Policing has confirmed they were investigating the death of a 13-year-old child for the coroner.

The case was referred to the Territory by the NSW Coroner, where it’s understood the child died.

It’s believed the child’s death was linked to an incident on Friday, 5 August, when paramedics were called to a Canberra home.

Emergency Services Agency (ESA) and Canberra Health Services declined to comment due to the “ongoing investigation”.

According to a media report, ACT firefighters were called to help ACT Ambulance staff on 5 August but did not enter the house due to COVID concerns.

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At the time, the ESA confirmed emergency services were called to an incident on the Friday morning and that the “operational response” was being reviewed “as per standard protocols”.

“Due to privacy constraints and whilst the matter is under review, it is not appropriate to comment further,” a spokesperson said.

No timeframe on the ESA review was given when requested.

The spokesperson said all ACT Fire and Rescue and ACT Ambulance Service staff were provided with adequate Personal Protective Clothing (PPC) and Equipment (PPE) to respond to “COVID-positive incidents”.

“Additionally, policies and procedures are in place to enable ESA to respond during the constantly changing environment that the pandemic presents, and deep cleaning of ESA stations and operational vehicles is conducted as necessary to ensure the safety of front-line personnel,” they said.

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At the time, United Firefighters Union ACT Branch secretary Greg McConville issued a scathing response to the media report that the fire crew did not enter the child’s home due to COVID fears.

“In relation to an incident involving a seriously ill young person and firefighters from ACT Fire and Rescue, it has been extremely disappointing that someone has chosen to court controversy over what is clearly a distressing situation,” he said.

“While the media report contains little detail and is not balanced, out of respect for all involved, including firefighters, paramedics and the family of the patient, we will not be making further comment at this time.

“While the matter is investigated, firefighters are unable to defend themselves publicly and this results in gross unfairness to both them as individuals and to the ACT Fire and Rescue service as a whole.

“I am confident that a due process of inquiry and an objective assessment of the facts will see our members exonerated.”

The timeline for the police investigation was not yet known.

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