Ambulance Vic named in ATSB death report

A man who died after being crushed by a crane on a cargo ship lay injured while an ambulance trying to reach him was locked out of the port.


Ambulance Victoria had neglected to train officers in how to open gates at Portland – a massive multi-berth facility about 300km west of Melbourne – says a report into the incident.

A crew member telephoned for help for the ship’s injured but conscious Chinese assistant electrician but the emergency operator at first could not find the port on a mapping system and so dispatched an ambulance to the general location.

Paramedics faced a locked and unmanned gate, unaware that the ambulance service had been provided with swipe cards, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau reported on Monday.

They drove to a second gate seeking access and then back to the original entry point where they were lucky to meet a staff member.

Despite the hold-up, paramedics reached the man 13 minutes after they were called.

Forty-nine minutes later, after a delay arranging to open the gates to leave, the ambulance arrived at Portland Hospital.

Shortly afterwards the man died.

The ATSB concluded the electrician had been working without proper approvals near an operating crane on the deck of the Singapore-based Toucan Arrow when he was crushed on October 7, 2013.

A warning light in the area was inoperative and, because of background noise, he is unlikely to have heard the alarm warning of the crane’s approach.

Although no one witnessed the incident, a torn strip of his clothing was found on a hatch lid against which he is believed to have been pinned as the remote-controlled crane moved along the deck.

The ATSB found the ship’s master failed to alert port authorities and therefore an emergency response, including manning of port access gates, did not occur.

The ambulance service had not taken up an offer by the port authority to take paramedics on a familiarisation tour of the port.

In response, Ambulance Victoria said it was impractical to hold access cards for the variety of sites that may call on its services.

Portland-based paramedics have since undergone retraining.