Camper Killed by Snake in NT

Submitted: Thursday, Oct 31, 2019 at 18:38
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Reply By: rumpig - Thursday, Oct 31, 2019 at 19:03

Thursday, Oct 31, 2019 at 19:03
Be interesting to hear how he was actually bitten / what he was doing at the time, but as usual there is little detail of the actual event reported in the article.
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Reply By: Ron N - Thursday, Oct 31, 2019 at 21:46

Thursday, Oct 31, 2019 at 21:46
Without knowing the full details, it sounds to me like he had inadequate snakebite treatment knowledge/skills, and didn't understand how important it is to keep still, keep calm, wrap the bitten limb - and not move around!

Walking to a ranger station to seek help is the worst thing he could have done.
Substantial amounts of body movement (as in walking) ensures the venom moves fast through the fat cells and lymph system, and ensures rapid death.

It is important that everyone camping and bushwalking, is fully conversant with the knowledge of what to do, in case of snakebite.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Shaker - Thursday, Oct 31, 2019 at 22:59

Thursday, Oct 31, 2019 at 22:59
Nothing in the article suggests that he walked to the Ranger Station.
It described him as a tourist, not a seasoned Outback traveller, so what would you have done?
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 00:19

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 00:19
The original article I read said he walked into the Ranger Station in the Park.

Now, the stories are, he "presented" at the Ranger Station, and "had gone" to the Ranger Station.

The actual description of him was "interstate tourist". We are all tourists as soon as we leave our home region to check out the scenery and the sights.

I have no information on where he was in the 5000 sq km Park, when he got bitten, or how far he had to travel to the Ranger Station.
The Park is presented as a remote area suitable for bushwalking and exploration. The traditional owners only allow 15 vehicles at a time into the Park.

The remoteness of the Park poses particular difficulties when seeking help in emergencies - and the NT Govt Parks website advises travellers to the Park that it is remote, and hands out the same advice as for any other remote region.
He may have been unfortunate enough to be a fair distance from any vehicle transport when he got bitten.

It's hard to know what could have been done better, to try and save his life, when we don't have the entire story.
But if I was bitten in a remote area, I certainly wouldn't be moving my body any more than possible, and seeking immediate medical assistance.

The NT Govt advises all travellers to the Park carry a first aid kit - and you would be foolish not to have a kit in that Park, and have a kit that contained snakebite equipment, and know how to use it.

Garig Gunak Barlu Park - NT
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Follow Up By: Member - nickb "boab" - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 05:57

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 05:57
Something i have thought about often....
Working on my own in the paddock...
Your out by yourself and get bitten ;((
no phone coverage or anyway of communicating any help . Your very much bugged . You don't have to be remote , if like me i would have to get back to my car where i have a snake bandage, radio & drive to help .if you haven't told anyone where your going to be , you could be laying there without any knowing you need help....
Cheers Nick b

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Follow Up By: GarryR - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 06:04

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 06:04
It is unfortunate that a story like this has happened yet again over the years.. I personally feel that authorities should make mandatory the carrying of a PLB when visiting any remote area,... deserts, mountains, or even the snow. Surely the cost of buying one or even hiring one would not be that difficult or expensive. Judy takes the plb with her in a day pack when she cross country skies as a safety precaution, as mobile phone coverage is hit and miss. This chap could have been found safe if carrying a Plb. The carrying of a plb would also save the cost or search and rescue. let alone the hundreds of hours in manpower. I do not what to get in a slanging match, but , these are my personal views only
location - Warragul -Victoria
life is too short, so out and about enjoy

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Follow Up By: Gbc.. - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 07:19

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 07:19
You don’t need to be remote to need a plb either. I carry mine often if on the mountain bike etc. if there is a possibility of coming off or getting bitten. With Aussie snakes, If you don’t stay still you are dead.
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 09:27

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 09:27
Whilst there might be some general ‘rules’ worth following and actions to take in the event of a snake bite, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adapt to the situation you find yourself in.

For sure, if I had no means of communicating my situation , I wouldn’t just lie down and hope for a better outcome. I’d run, walk, or crawl if needed...

Noting I carry a snake bite kit and PLB when in the bush...

Cheers, Baz - The Landy
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 11:50

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 11:50
Nick - In the early 1970's, in the Central Great Southern wheatbelt area of W.A., a farmer client of mine (Clarry) was out by himself in a large paddock, picking up stray mallee roots for firewood, and to clean up the paddock for the coming season - and as he reached down into some long Annual Rye Grass, a Dugite sprung out of the grass and bit him on the arm (a real snake-in-the-grass!).

In those days, there was no mobile phone communications, and Clarry was working alone, a fair distance from the homestead.
He jumped into his ute, drove home, rang the local hospital (which was about 40 kms away), and got medical advice from the duty matron.
His wife then drove him to hospital, where snake anti-venom was administered.

In those days, of course, there wasn't the same level of knowledge as today, as regards snakebite venom movement in the body.
It was thought back then, that the snake venom travelled via the bloodstream, and cutting the wound and draining some blood from the bite area would improve the victims chances.
And a tight tourniquet on the affected limb was recommended, to restrict blood flow.

Nowadays, the snake venom travel method through the body is better understood, and we no longer cut the bite area and try to drain blood - nor are tourniquets now recommended.

Despite Clarry using antiquated medical advice, and taking some time to get to hospital, he survived O.K. and suffered no long-term ill effects.
Clarry only died last year at the ripe old age of 92, so it appears the Dugite bite didn't affect his health greatly.

I have spent a lot of time working alone in remote bush areas in the 60's and 70's, and was very alert to the fact that any number of life-threatening events can overtake you quickly, and you must be prepared.

Fortunately, we live in an age today where communication levels are superb, and even in the remotest areas, you can still contact people when you get into trouble.
The level of communications you carry today is your decision - but telling someone where you're going, what your plans are, and when you are likely to return, is the all-important process that worked in the 1960's - it still works today, and it certainly helps Police and Emergency Services find you faster, if they get notice that you are missing, not responding, or in trouble.

Snakebite is certainly a real concern when working in the bush, in long grass, and when your attention is diverted from the ground.
Wearing long pants of heavy material and good boots, is a good start on reducing snakebite damage. Most bites are on the limbs, and mostly on the leg or foot area.
Never forget that many snakes are also active at night, so don't drop your guard at night time.

If bitten, keeping your body movement to a minimum is the recommended technique, to prevent the spread of venom, which travels through the body via the fat cells and lymph system.
Any muscle movement assists in venom spread. Most people do not get a "full dose" of venom, and quite a number of snakebite victims don't realise they have been bitten, because they think they only scratched themselves on a branch or stick.

Getting professional medical assistance quickly is important - so knowing where, and how, you can get that medical assistance from the area you're travelling into, is good planning.

It's also important to know what the varieties of snake are, that you're likely to encounter, in the area you're travelling into.
Medical recommendations can vary, according to the region, and according to the snake variety.

The RFDS and the QLD Health Dept have excellent advice pages, linked to below.

RFDS - Snakebite advice

QLD Health - Top 5 things you need to do, if you get bitten by a snake

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 12:25

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 12:25
Generally agree with you Ron. I would add just a couple of things:

Agreed that the most important action is to promptly apply compressive bandaging, immobilise the limb, and remain motionless. I understand that patients have survived after some hours of this treatment before receiving medical help and often without administration of antivenine.

It is no longer necessary to identify the snake variety since the introduction of polyvalent antivenine as it saves all varieties. Hunting the snake to identify is hazardous and a diversion from patient care.

PLB's are all very well but possibly suffer from delayed response time. The received PLB signal is first validated by contacting your nominated person to eliminate false activity, then determining and contacting the appropriate responder which may be one of several agencies including station management. Allmof which takes time and they still do not know the form of the emergency or the urgency need. To my mind, a satphone bypasses all this and can indicate the nature of the emergency and gain the most appropriate response.

Of course, the big problem is if you are alone. Applying the compressive bandage is more difficult and involves undesirable movement. Then you need to sit and wait patiently (pardon the pun) until help arrives, assuming you have been able to summon same. Jumping in the car and driving may be the worse thing you can do..... but if you have no communication then it would be hard to resist, eh?

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Follow Up By: Shaker - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 18:23

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 18:23
I doubt very much if a PLB would get medically qualified assistance to a victim in a remote situation in under 1 hour!

Brown snake bites, even apparently trivial ones, have been associated with acute deterioration over a five minute period leading to death. This may occur as soon as 30 minutes to an hour after the original bite. Acute, severe cardiac depression may be the mechanism for sudden death.

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Follow Up By: Member - nickb "boab" - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 22:59

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 22:59
We picked up some new style of snake bite bandages from st jonhs that form a square patton in the fabric when they are at the right tension..
Cheers Nick b

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Reply By: 9900Eagle - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 19:00

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 19:00
Here is how the death occurred. The fellas had picked up a couple of large cowrie type shells and were driving along when a very small snake brushed against his leg of the deceased, it bit him when him grabbed it. His mate said it is nothing to worry about as it is only small.

They threw the snake out the window and thought nothing more of it until the fella started to feel bad. From that point he was driven to the rangers station. They spoke to a doctor on the phone and a chopper was going to be sent but he fell into a coma and passed.

Pretty sad me things.
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 20:16

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 20:16
Quite a common misconception...

Bites from juveniles are more dangerous.

They don't have the ability to control the amount of venom and haven't yet learnt to dry bite.


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Follow Up By: OzzieCruiser - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 20:29

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 20:29
So the snake was in the car - how did it get in?
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Follow Up By: Shaker - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 20:42

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 20:42
Through the door? Not uncommon.
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Follow Up By: Gramps - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 20:48

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 20:48
In a cowrie type shell. Maybe not so uncommon :)

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Reply By: Ron N - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 22:11

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 22:11
There are important lessons to be learnt, and reinforced, from most snakebite events.

1. Never treat any snakebite, or suspected snakebite, as minor, and of no importance. It is MOST IMPORTANT that you get professional medical help, RAPIDLY, to identify or verify whether there has been envenomation - and the intensive medical monitoring, to find if there is a real threat to the victims life - or if the event is only a dry bite, a scratch, or a bite from something else.

2. The need for speed, to get the victim to competent medical facilities promptly, is the overarching priority.

3. The need for MINIMAL body movement after being bitten, is crucial.

4. Anti-venom can only stop neurological degradation of the bodys organs by the snake venom - it cannot reverse neurological damage to the body, such as paralysis, damaged kidneys, or blindness.

There's a couple of interesting audio files in the link below - from Jane Marwick of 6PR Radio in Perth, W.A.

She interviews Stephanie Longmuir, a farmers wife from Koorda, in W.A.'s North-Eastern Wheatbelt, who was bitten twice on the hand by a Gwarda, whilst collecting eggs on the farm.

Jane also interviews Dr Timothy Jackson, a venom researcher at the Australian Venom Research Unit, who supplies important information regarding snake venom and snake bite.

Stephanie Longmuir survived serious envenomation, but her saga related to the medical assistance she received in rural W.A., does not give one confidence in W.A.'s Country Health Service.

Stephanie was not given anti-venom for 8 hrs after she was bitten, and was given the run-around by the country medical staff, who were very obviously not on top of their game.

Stephanie was first transferred to Wyalkatchem Hospital, where the nurses placed no importance on her bites, and were pretty casual about her treatment.
As her condition deteriorated, she was transferred by road ambulance to Northam Hospital, where blood tests were done on a machine that could not produce interpretable results.

With her further deterioration, she was transferred to hospital in Perth, where a toxicologist was in attendance and competent blood tests were carried out.
It still takes an hour to get blood test results, even in a major hospital - and blood testing is crucial to identifying the level of envenomation and neurological damage.

Stephanie enventually recovered, but not without kidney failure, dialysis and blood transfusions.

Interestingly, another Koorda woman, 83 yr old Mary Nicholls was bitten last year, and died rapidly, due to her dismissive stance, as regards the snakebite.

And her grandaughter was bitten at age 14 mths, at a daycare centre in Bencubbin, just 8 years previously.
The granddaughter survived, but her mother was also highly critical of the poor quality, and lack of healthcare, in rural W.A.

The bottom line is, if you get bitten, get yourself PROMPTLY, to a MAJOR medical facility, that has blood testing abilities.

If that means having to call in the RFDS - do so, by all means - don't muck around with going to low-quality medical facilities, where only basic care is available.

Lucky to be alive - Stephanie Longmuirs story

Grandmother dies after snakebite - Koorda, W.A.

Cheers, Ron.
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Reply By: Michael H9 - Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 22:58

Friday, Nov 01, 2019 at 22:58
My condolences to the family, a very unfortunate incident. However, statistically speaking, you're in more danger driving to the hospital, AND at the hospital itself through medical negligence than you are from snakes. Horses are the number one killer animal in Australia.
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