Inter-agency cooperation is being praised as the reason behind
an eight year old boy surviving more than four hours trapped in a collapsed
Department of Fire and Emergency Service (DFES) career firefighters
and St John Ambulance (SJA) paramedics arrived at a Jandabup property around
3pm on Sunday November 19 to find Riley covered in sand up to his neck.
Crews began immediately working to provide protection to
ensure more sand didn’t cave in.
They were joined by the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team
who assessed the unstable area before starting to shore up the walls of the
USAR Incident Controller Nigel Elliott said the loose dry
soil meant any movement around the site could risk further collapse.
“The site was so unstable, Riley was stuck at the apex of
the trench so it was like a funnel. Any movement just sent more and more sand
on top of him,” Nigel said.
“It would have to be the most technically difficult incident
I’ve ever had to deal with from a management perspective.”
The USAR team has specialist trained capability to locate
and remove people who have been trapped by buildings, landfalls or slippages. The
team acquired state of the art extraction equipment in July 2016 – this is the
first incident they’ve used it in where a human life was at risk.
Nigel said it was touch and go with further collapses
throughout the attempted rescue.
“There was six tonnes of sand sitting on the edge of the
trench and I was conscious the entire time that it could come down on everyone
working in the hole.”
Local SES volunteers provided essential lighting and assisted
career Fire and Rescue to form a human chain to carry Riley out of the trench
once freed, while the SJA paramedics administered vital medical care, and the
RAC Rescue helicopter took him to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
“I cannot overstate
how hard everyone worked. We’ve built strong relationships with these other
agencies especially St John’s,” said Nigel.
“When we work well together, that’s when things go right –
that’s when we save lives,” agrees USAR Officer and Senior Firefighter Joshua
“It was a large
emotional investment by everyone there. Every single person put in a huge
effort,” he said.
Joshua spent several hours in the trench and said eight year
old Riley handled it as well as could be expected.
“He kept calling for ‘Snow’ his teddy bear, he couldn’t hold
it, so whoever was in the trench with him would wear Snow strapped to their
Riley spent the night in hospital with minor injuries and
was well enough to go home the next day.