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Local News - Victoria

Father in serious condition after three girls and their mother die in Glen Waverley house fire


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Mr Kikuchi, who is listed as the director of a Japanese restaurant in Richmond, is in a non-life-threatening condition at The Alfred hospital, and investigators hope to speak to him in coming days.

Forensic investigators will remain at the “complex” scene until at least Thursday.

“We will speak to the survivor, the 50-year-old male. Hopefully, he may or may not be able to shed some light into how the fire commenced,” Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill said on Monday.

“It is a scene that I’m told did have some materials in terms of inflammable liquids that were part of a legitimate business that I understand the surviving party was involved in.

“We will be in dialogue with family members of the deceased to understand whether or not there was any history of conflict between the parties concerned. But … it is purely speculation, and that is not part of our business at this point in time.”

Hiroyuki Kikuchi tried to put the fire out by filling his recycling bin with water.

Hiroyuki Kikuchi tried to put the fire out by filling his recycling bin with water. Credit:Facebook

Next-door neighbour Rahul Malhotre said he was woken by a blast before he heard a man shouting “please help, please help”.

“I ran out from my house and saw fire in the garage. The man was putting water in bins,” he said. “My neighbour called the fire brigade and within five minutes they were there.”

He said that Mr Kikuchi was shouting “please save my daughters, please save my daughters” and was trying to enter the building but police wouldn’t allow him.

Neighbour Hanish, who did not want his surname published, was also woken by what he said sounded like a “big blast which shook all the buildings”.

“I heard the guy shouting near the garage, ‘help, help’,” he said. “He was shouting so loud, top of his voice.

Hanish, who lives in a neighbouring apartment, witnessed the fire.

Hanish, who lives in a neighbouring apartment, witnessed the fire.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“I told him I called the fire services and to get out of the area. He wasn’t listening, he was in panic … He was trying to get inside from the garage, control the fire from the garage, and in a panic moment forgot [to tell us] about the kids. The stress, he was not able to think properly.

“And after a couple of minutes when the fire services came and said you have to evacuate, this guy started running and shouting, ‘my kids, my kids, my kids are upstairs’ and then he went … and tried to go inside the house.”

After about 30 minutes, the firefighters brought the father outside to the road.

“He was very desperate, in panic and his back was burned, his face was black with smoke and ash and the emergency services took him into an ambulance,” Hanish said.

Both neighbours said they seemed like a happy family.

Fire investigators attend the scene on Monday.

Fire investigators attend the scene on Monday. Credit:Paul Jeffers

“They were lovely kids, always jumping, dancing, doing something funny on the stairs,” said Hanish. “My housemate is so traumatised, he doesn’t want to open the blinds because every morning he would see this couple and the kids going past.”

Prior to having children, Ms Okano worked as an early childhood educator at a childcare centre in the city. Her former boss, Michelle Belli, said she loved her job.

“All she wanted to do was watch and see children grow and learn and live their full potential, always nurturing, and never had a bad word to say about anyone,” Ms Belli said.

“It came out with her children. They were so loved and so cared for … she never forgot her family overseas and wanted her children to have that connection with Japan and her family in Japan.”

Neighbour and friend Kelly Vu at a tribute to Kaoru Okano and her three young daughters.

Neighbour and friend Kelly Vu at a tribute to Kaoru Okano and her three young daughters.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Ms Okano’s friend, Kelly Vu, visited the scene on Monday morning. Ms Vu got to know Ms Okano and the three girls as they regularly rode their bikes past her home on their way to a nearby lake during lockdown.

She said they were a “beautiful family, beautiful children” and that Ms Okano was “a lovely mother that looked after the three girls very well”.

“Now and then I would invite them inside and make lunch for them, make cookies and let them play around my backyard,” she said. “The older one loved the garden and I gave her mother some plants.”

Kaoru Okano and her three young daughters were killed in a house fire in Glen Waverley.

Kaoru Okano and her three young daughters were killed in a house fire in Glen Waverley.

“She was a lovely lady. Very soft, very pleasant, we were able to talk a lot.”

Mr Kikuchi and Ms Okano had known each other for about 10 years before they had children, according to Ms Vu.

Ms Okano spoke to her girls in Japanese, Ms Vu said, and doted on them constantly.

“They were a happy family, [a] very, very happy family. It was too early for them to leave this world. They had a lot to offer this world, those beautiful children. I haven’t slept, I haven’t eaten,” she said.

“I look out the window on my balcony and say, ‘I can’t hear the girls’ voices anymore. I can’t see their bicycle riding anymore.”

Mr Kikuchi bought the Glen Waverley home in 2014, according to property documents.

Staff at the Consulate-General of Japan in Melbourne were in touch with Ms Okano’s grieving family in Japan on Monday.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.

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Australian News

Peter Dansie, who murdered wife, likely to die behind bars after appeal dismissed


A man who drowned his wheelchair-bound wife in a pond in the Adelaide parklands is likely to die behind bars after his appeal was dismissed.

Peter Rex Dansie, 71, was handed a 25-year non-parole period after a judge found he murdered his wife, 67-year-old Helen, at Veale Gardens in April 2017.

An appeal against his conviction was on Monday rejected by two of three justices sitting in the Court of Criminal Appeal, who ruled Dansie had not presented any evidence of a miscarriage of justice.

The dissenting third, Justice Kevin Nicholson, found accidental drowning could not be excluded as a reasonable possibility.

Dansie had also argued that the trial judge made errors of law and failed to fully explain the reasons for the verdict, but all three justices disagreed.

The outcome effectively closes the door on Dansie’s attempt to claim his murdered wife’s assets.

During his trial, the court heard Dansie told police he had briefly climbed into the pond after his wife fell in, and he tried unsuccessfully to rescue her.

But prosecutors argued it was “no accident” that Mrs Dansie’s wheelchair ended up in the water, and that her husband’s account of what happened was implausible.

They said Dansie felt his wife had become a burden and he was interested in pursuing a sexual relationship with a woman he had been communicating with in China.

Mrs Dansie, a former scientist, suffered a stroke in the 1990s that left her with long-term disabilities.

In sentencing remarks delivered earlier this year, Justice David Lovell called the murder the “ultimate act of domestic violence”.

“Yours was an evil and despicable act,” he said.

“This was a chilling, planned murder of a person whose only mistake was to trust you.”

Dansie will be in his mid-nineties before he is eligible for parole, although given health issues including a heart condition he will likely die in jail.



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Australian News

Man charged after couple die in collision


A 44-year-old man has been charged with manslaughter, along with a spate of other offences, after a horrific crash in which an elderly couple died in Porth Stephens.

The elderly couple, aged 80 and 77, died when their Toyota Aurion was involved in a smash with a Holden Commodore at a roundabout on Salamander Way, in Salamander Bay, on August 26.

A Tanilba Bay man, who was behind the wheel of a Commodore, was rushed to hospital for treatment for a head injury.

He was arrested and charged at Raymond Terrace Police Station on October 29 following two-months of inquiries by the Crash Investigation Unit.

The man was charged with two counts of manslaughter, two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death (dangerous driving), two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death (speeding), negligent driving occasioning death, driving recklessly/furiously or speeding in a dangerous manner, negligent driving, not keeping left of a dividing line and exceeding the speed limit by 30km/h.

He was refused bail in Raymond Local Court on Thursday and will reappear in January.



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Australian News

Four children die in one month as Adelaide hospital called ‘second class’


Four children have died at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) in Adelaide after a lack of access to cardiac facilities led a respected doctor to call the facility “a bit second class”.

The four children who died in the past month — one most recently on Friday, have had their deaths blamed on a lack of cardiac services in a South Australian public health services committee hearing, according to the Adelaide Advertiser.

In normal circumstances, the children would have been transferred to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital to undergo heart surgery — however this is prevented due to the coronavirus situation in the state. The alternative, Westmead Hospital in Sydney, chooses patients on a case-by-case basis.

Obstetrician and Associate Professor John Svigos told the hearing the WCH had gone from being a world-class hospital to “a bit second class”.

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The hospital’s staff had presented the case for having paediatric cardiac services at the hospital last year, but were rejected by an independent report, which concluded there wouldn’t be enough cases to keep surgeon’s skill levels up.

The Advertiser said South Australia remains the only Australian state without paediatric cardiac facilities. Prof Svigos told the committee three children had died within the last month due to a lack of access to the services.

Bernadette Mulholland, the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association chief industrial officer then told the hearing a fourth had died last Friday. She said she’d been told some of the deaths were preventable.

“If we had that (cardiac) service here in SA that would prevent, and this is the clinicians’ view, the deaths of some of these children,” Ms Mulholland said.

She warned the staff had been left burnt out and demoralised.

Both witnesses said the families and staff had been “besides themselves” after not being able to save the children’s lives.

Prof Svigos said “there are consequences” to any delays or decisions to cut health services.

“Particularly in our current COVID situation where the usual process of referral to the Melbourne cardiac unit is no longer tenable and referral to Sydney is on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

“I’ve been given to understand that the Women’s and Children’s Hospital has sadly seen the deaths of three babies in the past four weeks who were unable to be transferred, who almost certainly would have benefited from on-site cardiac services.

“I shall leave it to you to imagine the profound effect of these deaths on the parents, their families and the dedicated medical and nursing staff dealing with these tragedies.

“The WCH Alliance would humbly ask how many more deaths of babies and young children will the community and staff be forced to endure?”

He said SA Health has budgeted $5 million per year for transferring sick children, but said creating a specialised unit at the WCH would cost $6 million to establish and $1 million a year to run — making it cost neutral within two years.

“If we are not self sufficient we are going to run into this problem again — it would be crazy to think we are not going to have another pandemic at some stage,” he said.

The WCH released a statement saying the hospital provides the highest quality care to all its patients and “South Australian children will always have access to the health services they need.”

“To ensure young South Australians receive the best possible treatment, some patients may need to travel to interstate due to the specialised nature of care they require.

“We transfer our patients who require complex paediatric cardiac surgery to the Royal Children’s Hospital, as it remains the safest option and offers the best care for our children and their families.

“We are working closely with our clinicians to develop a service proposal for the use of ECMO (a cardiac oxygen service) for children in South Australia.

“Paediatric cardiac surgery services are currently under review with the Network’s Board.

“The quality of the services we provide is always our number one priority and South Australian families should rest assured that our hospital continues to provide the safest care for our patients.”



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Australian News

Ice-addict hoon crashed car, left friends to die


An unlicensed hoon was high on ice when he crashed a stolen Commodore and killed his two passengers before he fled the scene in Melbourne’s southeast.

Dylan Cassidy, 20, was jailed for up to 11 years over the fatal crash at Cranbourne in August 2019 after he spent weeks on an ice-fuelled crime spree.

“This was absolutely appalling, incredibly dangerous offending,” Victorian County Court Judge Liz Gaynor said on Thursday.

Cassidy’s friends Jordy Kirkwood, 20, and Byron Hampton, 16, were passengers in the car’s back seat and died at the scene of the crash.

Another friend Dakoda Nicholson, who was 16 at the time, survived but was left with lifelong injuries, including to her spine.

Cassidy was speeding when he lost control of the car along the South Gippsland Highway at Cranbourne, veered onto the median strip and went flying onto the wrong side of the road.

He slammed into a small SUV, driven by a mum with her two young daughters in the back seat.

But instead of stopping to help his injured and dying friends, Cassidy started to run before he grabbed a stash of drugs from the car and fled again. Witnesses chased after the driver and held him until police arrived at the scene.

“There was a real chance … of even more death and even more serious injury,” Judge Gaynor said.

“This was truly terrible, dangerous offending”.

In the lead-up to the August crash Cassidy was described as a “one-man crime spree” by his lawyer, which was fuelled by his ice use.

The 20-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of culpable driving causing death, reckless conduct endangering life, three charges of negligently causing serious injury, theft and other charges.

He was jailed for 11 years but must serve at least eight years before he is eligible for parole.



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Australian News

Multiple residents die in aged care home


Eleven of the latest 16 COVID-19 deaths recorded in Victoria have been linked to oubreaks in aged care.

279 new cases have been detected in the past 24 hours and while the downward trend is continuing, with new cases dipping below 300 for the first time in three days, the numbers in Australia’s aged care are getting no better.

Seven more women and nine men aged from their 70s to their 90s have died from coronavirus and 29 of the 40 people in intensive care in hospital are on a ventilator.

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Meanwhile, seven residents from the one aged care facility in Melbourne died from COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

Doutta Galla Aged Services confirmed two residents had died at Yarraville Village, and five had died in hospitals.

It comes as the Victorian government has vowed to deploy health care workers into the Japara Goonawarra Aged Care Home in the Melbourne’s north and Doutta Galla nursing home in the west as they struggle to keep the coronavirus under control in the state’s elderly population.

“Their families have been kept fully informed and our hearts and thoughts go out to them,” a statement from CEO Vanda Iaconese read.

“The situation continues to be difficult for our residents and families, particularly when families are unable to be close in contact with their loved ones. The management of our facility is, however, under control to the best possible extent.”

The remainder of its residents were relocated to various hospitals last week. Seventeen residents were not infected and were quickly moved to facilities to stop them from contracting the virus.

“Our emergency response plan was immediately activated, and we have been working collaboratively with state and federal aged care authorities and health services, Western Health and AUSMAT,” a statement from the facility said.

“The experienced aged care and nursing staff at the facility are completely focused on the health and wellbeing of the residents at the centre and they are working around the clock to provide the best possible care.”

Additional resources have been brought in to try and deal with the outbreak, due to multiple staff members also testing positive.

Last week it was revealed Australia’s aged care sector is “not properly prepared now” for COVID-19, leaving hundreds of elderly residents at the mercy of the deadly virus.

In damning submissions to the aged care royal commission, Peter Rozen QC, senior counsel assisting the royal commission, has warned the system has failed the elderly and their families.

And after avoiding censure over the aged care crisis until now, he warned the buck must stop with the Morrison Government which is responsible for aged care.

“Tragically not all that could be done was done,’’ the QC said.

“The sector was not properly prepared in March before the Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch House outbreaks. The lessons of those two outbreaks were not properly conveyed to the sector and as a result the sector was not properly prepared in June 2020 when we witnessed high levels of community transmission of the virus in Melbourne and based on the evidence that you’ve heard, the sector is not properly prepared now.

“Commissioners, the Federal Government which has sole responsibility for aged care was firmly on notice early in 2020 about the many challenges the sector would face if there were outbreaks of COVID-19. And that notice came from a variety of sources.”



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Four die in horror Gold Coast crash


Four people have died in a ‘tragic’ accident on a notorious Gold Coast hinterland road.

Emergency services were called to a two-vehicle crash on Nerang-Murwillumbah Rd at Advancetown at 1pm Saturday.

Queensland Ambulance Acting Operations Supervisor Jay Nevins said they arrived to a tragic scene.

“We found four patients in traumatic cardiac arrest and one with minor injuries,” he said.

“The man in his early 20s was transported to Gold Coast University Hospital.”

Queensland Police Service confirmed the other four people involved had tragically died.

“Emergency crews attended the scene where all four occupants from the first vehicle were declared deceased,” an official statement said.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services were also on scene, attempting to free the victims from the wreckage.

It’s believed the crash involved a sedan and a utility vehicle on a sweeping bend just west of the intersection between Nerang-Murwillumbah Rd and Beechmont Rd.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the area has received almost 13mm of rain since 9am, with poor visibility due to heavy cloud cover.

The road is closed and will remain so for some time yet.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.



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Who was the Olympic snowboarder? How did he die?


Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin grew up with the perfect playground to become a champion snowboarder, with Mt Buller on his doorstep.

When he was eight his family encouraged him to trade in his skis – which he’d been on since three – for a snowboard before he went on to win two World Snowboard Cross titles, two highly coveted Overall Crystal Globes, and seven World Cup gold medals.

His family reportedly were on the beach when he drowned while spearfishing on the Gold Coast today.

HOW AUSSIE WINTER OLYMPICS STAR DIED

Pullin is believed to have suffered a shallow water blackout at Palm Beach at 10.30am this morning.

He was found unresponsive on the ocean floor at an artificial reef by a snorkeller, who called for help from a group of nearby surfers.

The alarm was raised and a lifeguard raced to assist, pulling him from the surf on a jet ski.

Paramedics performed CPR for 45 minutes but the 32-year-old couldn’t be revived.

RELATED: World reacts to Olympic hero’s death

OLYMPIC GLORY

While Pullin dominated in world titles, he had his eyes on one thing – Olympic glory.

In 2014 he was Australia’s flag-bearer for the Opening Ceremony in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

While Sochi didn’t go according to plan, with Pullin eliminated in the quarter-finals, he lined up for this third Olympics in 2018 and came sixth.

An unfortunate crash in the final led to the result, which was his best in his Olympic appearances.

HOW HE CREATED HISTORY

In 2012/2013 Pullin created history, becoming the first Australian winter sports athlete to defend a World Championship title.

In 2013 he was awarded Athlete of the Year by Ski and Snowboard Australia.

In 2015-2016, he was gold at the final World Cup of the season in Baqueira Beret, Spain, joining teammate Belle Brockhoff who won the women’s event – marking the first time Australia has won gold in women’s and men’s at a major competition.

WHO IS ELLIDY VLUG?

Pullin’s girlfriend is a swimwear model from Narrabeen on Sydney’s nothern beaches.

The pair had known each other for 10 years through friends but hit it off at a party Aussie surfer Laura Enever hosted.

“We just started talking after meeting there and I called her out for a dance,” Pullin told Buro.

“Heaps old school! Dragged her out on the dance floor.”

Ms Vlug said the couple were good at doing long distance when Pullin was away and she just made sure she kept herself busy.

In Feberuary she posted a photo as a bridesmaid at a wedding and said she was wondering when her turn was.

HOW HE GOT THE NICKNAME ‘CHUMPY’

“I grew up in a small town. Everyone had a handle growing up,” Pullin said of his upbringing in Mansfield, Victoria, during a Red Bull interview.

“It came from my parents mostly, but it stuck with friends and then older crew I was snowboarding with. It was fitting as a snowboard grommet and I probably should have grown out of it at some stage. The meaning of where it all started was lost and has now just become my name.”



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Local News - Victoria

Rory thought he was healthy, then suddenly he was about to die


But it sparked the beginning of an incredible 20-person, almost 14-hour operation by Ambulance Retrieval Victoria, one of the longest they’ve done, to save Rory and bring him from Bairnsdale Hospital on life support to The Alfred in Melbourne.

“They suspected I had COVID-19 because of my lungs. I don’t know how many times I got COVID-tested but it’s not pleasant.”

Rory was put into isolation, but his condition rapidly deteriorated.

“In Rory’s case we were concerned both about an autoimmune disease like Wegener’s and about the coronavirus infection,” said The Alfred’s intensive care specialist Aidan Burrell.

Dr Aidan Burrell, The Alfred's Intensive Care Specialist, helped save Rory as his lungs filled with blood due to Wegener's disease.

Dr Aidan Burrell, The Alfred’s Intensive Care Specialist, helped save Rory as his lungs filled with blood due to Wegener’s disease.Credit:Justin McManus

Dr Burrell received a distressed phonecall from a Bairnsdale doctor describing Rory’s condition and was then among a crew who flew out to Rory to assess and treat him.

It was 3.50am on May 8 when Rory’s case was referred to Ambulance Retrieval Victoria, Dr John Daley was the third coordinator in a long chain who began working to organise that crew. ARV is a branch of Ambulance Victoria and conducts complex movements of critically ill patients, which has included sending specialists to New Zealand to treat and transport two Melbourne patients injured in the White Island volcano tragedy in December last year.

ARV receives about 4000 referrals each year, providing specialist advice for patients, about half of whom are moved. An ARV coordinator assembles a crew that could include critical care nursing staff, paramedics, MICA paramedics, flight paramedics and sometimes medical registrars.

Dr Daley first considered sending a helicopter from The Alfred, but the weight of the life-saving equipment and the crew meant that wouldn’t work. So they diverted to a 50-minute flight at Essendon Airport to Bairnsdale Airport, where two ambulances were waiting for them. If they’d got to Rory much later he would have gone into cardiac arrest.

“Our job is often like running an emergency department with a blindfold on, with doctors you don’t know and patients that you can’t examine,” he said.

“Our job is often like running an emergency department with a blindfold on with doctors you don’t know and patients that you can’t examine,” he said.

It keeps him on his toes, Dr Daley says. After nine years with ARV he’s been to most – if not all – of the hospitals, landing strips and ambulance bays in Victoria.

“You just have to get yourself into the space of that hospital,” he said.

COVID-19 has brought its own complexity to ARV jobs.

Communicating with doctors in Bairnsdale was difficult, Dr Daley said, because Rory was in isolation, so Dr Daley couldn’t communicate directly with the people who were in the room performing procedures on him.

“It’s a real challenge, it’s doable, it just slows us down and makes us think a bit more.”

ARV has been central to planning for COVID-19. Director John McClure said the group received funding to expand their state-based platform REACH, a live dashboard that monitors the activity of every single intensive care unit in Victoria, to operate nationally.

“Our coordinators use this platform to decide where the best location is to move a patient in need,” he said.

The Critical Health Resource Information System (CHRIS) was developed in about three weeks and had every intensive care unit in Australia reporting their up-to-date information on bed capacity, ventilation capacity and how many COVID patients they had in their unit.

Rory thanking Director of the ARV director Jason McClure (centre) and Dr John Daley for helping to save his life.

Rory thanking Director of the ARV director Jason McClure (centre) and Dr John Daley for helping to save his life.Credit:Justin McManus

When Dr Burrell got to Rory, he already had a breathing tube in his mouth, was in a coma in deep sedation, and despite that, his respiratory function was still severely impaired.

His lungs had progressively filled with blood, and he was breathing at five to 10 per cent of his lung function.

“We converted him from being on a mechanical ventilator to adding in an additional pump, an oxygenator called ECMO (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) without that, he probably would have died,” Dr Burrell said.

A special ambulance (Complex Patient Ambulance Vehicle), one of only four or five in the state, transported Rory by road on full life-support from Bairnsdale to Melbourne.

He was later diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Wegener’s.

Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (also known as Wegener’s) is a branch of vasculitis, in which the body’s own immune system attacks the blood vessels and it can present with bleeding and inflammation from the lungs, nose, throat, sinuses or cause kidney failure. In Rory’s case, it caused severe haemorrhaging in his lungs.


Rory’s life-saving journey

  • May 8, 3.50am: Case referred to Ambulance Retrieval Victoria.
  • 9am: ARV and doctors from The Alfred leave Air Ambulance Base at Essendon Fields.
  • 10.15am: Crew flies for about an hour and arrives at Bairnsdale Hospital.
  • Complex Patient Ambulance (CPAV) drives to Bairnsdale Hospital from Heyfield.
  • 2.40pm: Rory loaded into CPAV vehicle.
  • 5.30pm: He is driven about 280 kilometres to The Alfred, a journey that took nearly three hours.

Dr Burrell said it was a very rare condition.

Rory Smith went from a healthy 22-year-old to his lungs filling with blood. A marathon mission by Ambulance Retrieval Victoria and doctors from The Alfred saved his life.

Rory Smith went from a healthy 22-year-old to his lungs filling with blood. A marathon mission by Ambulance Retrieval Victoria and doctors from The Alfred saved his life. Credit:Pictures: Supplied.

“The hard problem is diagnosing it. People can follow the wrong pathway and get confused about the wrong diagnosis,” he said.

“Over a 10-year time span, we’ve had one other patient with Wegener’s who has needed full ECMO support.”

Rory remained in a coma for two-and-a-half weeks, during that time his 23rd birthday passed without fuss. “I was sedated so I wasn’t aware it was my 23rd birthday and no one could be there, not that I would have known anyway. I think I was in isolation.”

It took about five days for Rory to understand why he was in hospital once he was woken from his coma.

“I actually thought I was in a car accident. I was a bit confused as to why I was at The Alfred, all I remember was going to Bairnsdale hospital,” he said.

He also had to relearn how to eat, to walk and to get his strength back.

“Day by day as I got better, I could understand more and learnt I was going to have this condition for the rest of my life,” he said.

“There’s a lot of unknowns about it. It’s not curable but it is manageable.”

The volunteer paramedic, who had previously met Dr Daley when supporting other critically ill patients, has already had a hard year.

Living in Gippsland, this year his friends and family had dealt with droughts, landslides, the impact of COVID-19 on tourism as well as the Gippsland bushfires – which Rory fought as a CFA firefighter.

“Yeah, it’s been a hectic year for everybody. It affects everybody, especially in small communities.”

Despite being discharged for a day, in which he coughed up blood and had to return, he’s been in hospital for more than seven weeks.

“I keep asking myself, why did I get this disease, but they have no explanation of how people get it. It just happens,” he said.

Rory looks at Dr Burrell and shakes his head telling him just how grateful he is to them, Bairnsdale Hospital and the ARV crew for saving his life.

“I’ve never had anything like that before. I’ve never really been sick ever,” he said.

“I got told my chances of survival were very dim, and I made it and I’m just forever thankful. If it wasn’t for their quick thinking and getting down to Bairnsdale so fast, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

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Remorseful killer who left girlfriend to die has sentence cut in half


After the “prolonged” assault, he left Ms Wilms “helpless” and dying on the floor of the apartment and went to another woman’s house. Though Freeburn told the second woman he was concerned about his girlfriend’s condition, he never sought help for her.

Ms Wilms, who met Freeburn on a dating website and who the court found was “vulnerable”, had the drug GHB in her system at the time of her death.

The scene in Derrick St Kew where Elizabeth Wilms' was found on July 5, 2016.

The scene in Derrick St Kew where Elizabeth Wilms’ was found on July 5, 2016.Credit:Wayne Taylor

The court found that it was open for the jury to find the injuries resulting from the assault were a “substantial and operative” cause of her death. But the jury could not have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Freeburn had intended to kill or cause her really serious injury.

The ruling meant that Freeburn was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder.

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“We consider that it is appropriate to sentence the appellant on the basis that his actions, in inflicting the injuries on Elizabeth which were a substantial cause of her death, were unlawful and dangerous,” the court found.

“The principal issues concerned whether the soft tissue injuries inflicted by the appellant had been a substantial and operative cause of Elizabeth’s death, and, if so, whether, in inflicting those injuries, the appellant had intended to cause Elizabeth really serious injury.

“We interpolate that the prosecution did not, ultimately, put to the jury that the appellant had intended to kill Elizabeth.”

Freeburn had previously told the court of his remorse for the deadly assault.

“I am extremely remorseful and sorry for what happened to the victim and to the victim’s family,” Freeburn told the re-sentencing hearing in June.

For help in a crisis call 000. If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.

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