When addressing media yesterday about the horrific accident at Dreamworld theme park, Acting Senior Operations Supervisor of the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS), Gavin Fuller, described all four victims of the accident as “sustaining injuries that were incompatible with living.”
At the time, very little information was available. The cause of deaths were – and are still – unknown, and the names of victims Kate Goodchild, 32, her brother Luke Dorsett, 35, and his partner Roozi Araghi were not yet released. (A fourth victim has not yet been named as police attempt to contact her next-of-kin.)
Fuller told media that the Thunder River Rapids ride sustained “some sort of malfunction, causing two people to be ejected from the ride, while another two people were caught inside the ride.”
When asked to clarify the victim’s injuries, Fuller declined on the basis that he’d only be guessing at this point, and repeated his earlier statement that the injuries “would be incompatible with life.”
With very few details, and attempting to explain this tragedy to the public, the media reported this quote.
It cause considerable backlash by those who believed it simply added gory details without providing any of the facts.
I also can’t believe the journalism around the tragic event. These poor families. “Injuries incompatible with life” – what? And “The dead” ? pic.twitter.com/0fVjeAKYJt
— Ruby Rose (@RubyRose) October 25, 2016
@nesslawrence totally agree. They died. Don’t sugarcoat it… It’s just shonky journalism.
— Kyle Goldfinch (@KyleGoldfinch) October 25, 2016
Why ambulance and police officers use phrases like “sustained injuries incompatible with life” is beyond me. Such cold, impersonal language
— Mark Ludlow (@M_Ludlow) October 25, 2016
So why did Fuller use the phrase?
It’s actually an official term that actually appears in the QAS’s guidelines around when paramedics should withhold CPR.
There’s only four circumstances in which this is done: where the patient is exhibiting obvious signs of death (e.g. rigor mortis or decomposition); where doing so would endanger the life or safety of the paramedic; where a lawful direction to withhold CPR has been provided to paramedics; or where the patient “has sustained injuries that are totally incompatible with life”.
Such injuries include: decapitation, cranial and cerebral destruction, hemicorporectomy (where body below the waist has separated, transecting the lumbar spine), incineration, or foetal maceration (one of the 12 signs of fetal death).
By using the phrase, Fuller was indicating the seriousness of this injuries, which go far beyond what might be considered a “normal” fatal injury.
No further details have been released at this time.
A team of 30 detectives are currently working with a significant number of scientific police and partner agencies to prepare a report for the Coroner.
Police are appealing for anyone with photo or video footage of the event, or for anyone who rode the Thunder River Rapids earlier in the day to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 33 000.