Summer bushwalking fatalities in the NT

Submitted: Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 18:04
ThreadID: 137684 Views:2733 Replies:5 FollowUps:13
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I didn't see an EO thread about this incident. A German woman who was visiting the Alice Springs area hasn't been seen since around New Years Day. Reportedly she was last seen at Emily Gap in the East MacDonnells.Police have given up actively searching by this point.

Click for article

At the page linked above, you can click to other articles about this incident.

That article led me to news about another foreign tourist who recently died while descending Mt. Sonder in the West MacDonnells:

Mt Sonder incident

And somewhere in there, I found my way to an article about a couple who died during a walk in the Trephina Gorge area of the East MacDonnells. It appears they got off-trail and became lost. This happened in February of last year:

Two dead at Trephina Gorge

During my 2008 visit to Australia, I did all of these walks, including the Mt. Sonder climb, without incident. But I was in the area during the last few days of May when temps were quite reasonable.

I'm not sure what is needed to convince people that it's a bad idea to go bushwalking (AKA hiking) during 40+ C weather ?!
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Reply By: Member - shane r1 - Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 19:01

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 19:01
Yep, I don’t know how to stop people stuffing up either!
But I do hope we don’t end up with stupid nanny state restrictions, to save that 0.0001 % and disadvantage the rest of the population!
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Follow Up By: lindsay - Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 20:06

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 20:06
That German lady has been found deceased near Emily gap this afternoon.
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Follow Up By: Candace S. - Friday, Jan 25, 2019 at 15:32

Friday, Jan 25, 2019 at 15:32
Yes, and I haven't found any news since Jan. 16, so no official word yet on the cause of death:

Monika Billen - body found
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Reply By: Member - nickb "boab" - Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 21:01

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 21:01
Also another one monday 14th this week in alice springs
ABC Alice Springs
14 January at 12:40 ·

NT Police say a woman had to be rescued yesterday while hiking the Larapinta Track, west of Alice Springs.

The 60 year old was out with a bushwalking group when she sustained an ankle injury and became dehydrated.

Police and paramedics carried the woman for 2km off the track until they reached an ambulance, she was then kept in hospital overnight.

With temperatures reaching 42 C yesterday police are urging the public to heavily prepare for bushwalking in current weather conditions, by carrying lots of water and wearing appropriate gear, or avoiding it all together.
Cheers Nick b

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Reply By: Michael H9 - Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 21:31

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 21:31
It's pretty obvious that Europeans have no idea how wrong it is to go hiking in 40+ temperatures. They never experience them at home and summer is hiking season there. I wonder if they think it was a good idea to go for a hike when it's -10 in Germany? Some serious education is needed because it's a danger for the people sent out to rescue them.
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 08:56

Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 08:56
The same as Australians don't know where to ski in Austria and one young 16 yo gets killed in an avalanche after the family went sking in a closed area due to the danger.

"Some serious education is needed because it's a danger for the people sent out to rescue them."

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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 09:12

Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 09:12
Couldn't agree more, but that's a matter for the Austrians.
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Follow Up By: KevinE - Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 18:54

Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 18:54
Have they released the cause of death yet?

If the autopsy isn't done, surely it's pure speculation to say that the heat was the cause?

Remember that poor guy found dead near Coondambo a few short years back? it was a snake bite.

Who knows what killed this poor lady.
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Follow Up By: Candace S. - Friday, Jan 25, 2019 at 16:22

Friday, Jan 25, 2019 at 16:22
"It's pretty obvious that Europeans have no idea how wrong it is to go hiking in 40+ temperatures. They never experience them at home and summer is hiking season there."

Perhaps this is part of the problem. Maybe people don't do enough research during the trip-planning phase. In this case, they don't learn about the reasonably expected conditions for the time of year they're traveling. Or the information just doesn't register. After all, as you point out, people from moderate or cold climates equate summer with hiking season.

Also, I'd imagine flying from mid-winter in a cold climate to mid-summer in a hot climate makes an even steeper "learning curve" for your body to acclimate.

BTW, European tourists seem to enjoy visiting Death Valley National Park (located not far from me) in the summer. I've been given a few reasons for this, though I haven't determined the accuracy of these statements:

It became an especially popular destination for German tourists due to a documentary that appeared on TV there;

Working Europeans get their holidays in summer so that's when they have to go;

Some people want to experience the extreme climate and perhaps get bragging rights that they "survived" it.

Fortunately, the majority of summer visitors remain in the "front country" areas and don't get far from their rental car/tour bus and other people. Some people wander farther and a few get into trouble, most notably the infamous German tourists who disappeared in summer 1996 (no remains found until 2009).

A holiday gone very "pear-shaped"
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Reply By: Ron N - Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 21:53

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019 at 21:53
It's not just Europeans who can't see the dangers in indulging in outdoor exercise in 40 deg C heat.
The lass missing in Tom Price is reported to be superbly fit and regularly practised running in high temperatures.

I don't care how fit you are, running or doing strenuous exercise in extreme heat takes you to the edge, where it only takes something to go slightly wrong, and you're history.

I've worked in 47 deg C temperatures in Marble Bar and 200km NE of Kalgoorlie, and I can tell you, it knocks the stuffing out of even young fit people.

That was 30 years ago, and I was much younger and very fit back then - but dehydration still strikes you in extreme heat, even when you're gulping water regularly.

Search resumes for missing Pilbara mother

I greatly fear for this lady, after 4 days missing in extreme Pilbara heat, I fully expect to hear next, that they have found her body.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Member - Wildmax - Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 10:36

Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 10:36
Sadly your prediction was reports this morning that her body has been found. And this is not a case of an international or East Coast tourist, but a local who has lived in the area for some years.
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 10:55

Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 10:55
Wildmax - Yes, this is a very sad outcome, the lass was a mother to two young children.

Missing womans body found

The Summer heat in the Pilbara is bad at the best of times, but this Summer has been extreme - it's the region feeding the extreme heat to the East and South East Coasts of Australia.

Marble Bar broke its December temperature record on Boxing Day 2018 - just 0.1 deg C below the all-time record of 49.2 deg C set in 1905.

Marble Bar sets December temperature record

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Life Member - Duncan W (WA) - Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 11:09

Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 11:09
Yes but from what I've heard so far is that there has been no mention how she died so at this stage you can't say she died from her own actions.


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Follow Up By: garrycol - Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 12:17

Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 12:17
Yes she was only 500m from the caravan park so anything is possible at this stage.
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Jan 18, 2019 at 00:14

Friday, Jan 18, 2019 at 00:14
Folks - Here's what little we know.

1. The W.A. Police have stated there do not appear to be any suspicious circumstances in the young womans death in Tom Price. That may change if formerly unseen evidence is discovered.

2. Her body was found within about 500M of the Tom Price caravan park.

3. She had her phone with her, and texted her family she would be home in "about 20 mins". That was her last communication of any type.

4. It appears she was in phone range at all times. The searchers tried to triangulate her phone position, but were hampered because there is only a single repeater tower in the region.

4. She disappeared Sunday afternoon and her phone kept ringing out until Monday morning, when it switched to voicemail. This would appear to indicate the phone battery went flat Monday morning.

5. Whatever happened to her, must have happened quickly, because she had no time to call or text.

I would have expected a snakebite would give her time to call for help. Accordingly, one would speculate it was a medical event that overtook her.
We will not know anything further until an autopsy is carried out.

If the autopsy is inconclusive, then Police may hand the file to the Coroner, to investigate further, via an Inquest.
In W.A., anyone can request an Inquest, to try and clear up doubts surrounding a death, or due to inconclusive Police investigations.
An Inquest is only held when the circumstances of death are unclear, or there is an issue of importance involved (i.e. - public health and safety).

Cheers, Ron.
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Reply By: KevinE - Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 22:50

Thursday, Jan 17, 2019 at 22:50
I get quite perplexed by tragedies such as these.

Notwithstanding all of the chest pumping, whether you are Australian or not matters very little IMO. Just think about the people living next door to you, or across the road!

Each of us are individuals & our bodies are very diverse.

The poor lady involved in this latest incident was very well traveled & I suspect that she knew her body type & limitations extremely well. Better than a lot on this forum ever will I suspect!

So, how on earth did this tragedy unfold?

I'm very lucky, I have a body type that barely ever notices that it's overly hot, unless I'm in humid weather.

As a teenager, I wondered all over the bush around upper Eyre peninsular, on foot, with a .22, some ammo, a backpack, a Primus stove, some canned food, a can opener & a 2L container of diluted cordial. Sometimes with a mate, or mates, sometimes, on my own.

I never once even considered that the heat may get me. Even when we had many days in a row over 40C

Same when I was in the army (infantry). No dramas with dry, hot weather.

Same for the 45 or so years I've been "enjoying" red dirt for recreation since.

Even the same for my work these days, cutting trees in 40C+, no dramas. I don't even carry a water bottle at work & disdain stopping for anything, including drinks.

But, put me in the tropics in the build up, or the wet & I melt!

Worse still, put me in the cold & I'd die real quick out in the weather. My body just will not take exposure to extreme cold.

I workout regularly & actually have enjoyed my workouts this week in the heatwave. In the cold it would be a different matter though.

I have read all of the alarmist comments here & elsewhere about going to central Australia during summer & having been there in summer, I used to think that the posters were just soft.

But as I said above, we're all made differently.

I'm absolutely sure I'd get called soft by seasoned travelers in areas with minus zero temperatures! Quite simply, it would kill me & kill me quick!

So, back to the original question! The lady in question was a VERY seasoned traveler. There are many other places as hot as central Australia, if not hotter. What on earth happened???

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Follow Up By: rumpig - Friday, Jan 18, 2019 at 07:26

Friday, Jan 18, 2019 at 07:26
Could be anything...MIL was super healthy with no existing medical conditions, she dropped on the spot in her house with a brain aneurysm...a young family friend had an existing heart condition he thought was under control, his girlfriend went into the shower and came out to find him dead on the lounge room floor....sometimes when ya times up it’s up.
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Jan 18, 2019 at 12:53

Friday, Jan 18, 2019 at 12:53
Rumpig is right on the mark. Nephews wife was 42, 3 kids, fit as a fiddle, no family history of any heart or circulatory systems - yet she dropped like a stone in front of him in the bedroom on a Saturday morning.

It turned out she had suffered SCAD - Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. This is where the blood finds its way between the inner and outer layers of the artery, and then bursts the outer layer, like a blown hydraulic hose.

It's the equivalent of a heart attack, and the medical world is only just waking up to the fact that it happens a lot more than they thought. It regularly just happens to pick, fit healthy women in their 40's, who have had kids.

Bottom line for the nephews wife was she was revived 5 times before they got her to the docs in Fiona Stanley Hospital - then the docs couldn't figure what had happened.
They thought she'd had a heart attack, and kept trying to get her heart started again, with no success - because the blood kept pouring out of the torn artery.
Meantimes, her formerly-good heart filled with congealed blood, and buggered it.

The docs cut her open and were horrified by what they found. They put a Heartmate 3 pump in her for 9 mths, hoping her heart would recover.
It didn't, so they shortlisted her for a full heart transplant.
Just over a year later, she got the new heart, and despite a few small hiccups, she's currently travelling well.
It could have been a whole lot different story if she hadn't been whipped into intensive care, as fast as she was.

You never know what's going to strike you down. Brothers FIL had 6 brothers, and all 7 boys in that family dropped early from heart attacks, with one brother dropping dead by the farm tractor at age 27.
The brothers FIL survived the longest, he dropped with a heart attack at age 62.

If you already have some kind of medical weakness, heat stress coupled with exercise, will soon exacerbate it.

Cheers, Ron.
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