Thong-wearing tourist recalls snakebite terror

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snake bite in Karijini
Paramedic Claire Fennelly treats Christian Wright in the Dales Gorge. PIC: Supplied/West Australian

When two travellers were hospitalised by snakebites in separate incidents Karijini National Park in WA’s north-west last month, the authorities wasted no time in warning hikers and campers of the need for extreme vigilance.

Parks and Wildlife Service Pilbara regional wildlife officer Jamie Gault said that while snakes were generally most active between November and April, the risk of snakebites was ‘always present’ in the Pilbara.

While both men in the recent snakebites survived their ordeal, it is only just emerging how close at least one of them came to not making it.

Nurse, Christian Wright, 33, was on his first trip to Karijini National Park and – now fully recovered – freely admits it could have been his last. If the stars had not fully aligned back on that fateful day in mid-May, Mr Wright would have never survived.

He was wearing thongs while walking to Circular Pool in Dales Gorge with a friend when he felt a bee-sting like prick in his foot. The West Australian newspaper reports that Mr Wright initially dismissed it, even after his eye caught a metre-long juvenile brown snake nearby. However, 15 minutes later, he started getting a headache, then his chest started to tighten, and he felt himself passing out.

Luckily, Mr Wright’s friend managed to catch him before he fell to the ground and then, by an incredible stroke of good fortune,  two Austrian tourists armed with a satellite phone they had rented at the last minute, arrived on the scene.

After they had called for help, The West Australian reports that the semi-conscious Mr Wright then managed to instruct the tourists to bandage his leg to prevent deadly venom from spreading around his body.

“I was just coming and going,” Mr Wright to the newspaper. “I started getting really agitated as the neurotoxins started getting to my head, I was writhing all over the place and yelling out from the pain in my head.”

A ranger arrived shortly afterwards, followed by ambulance staff and State Emergency Service volunteers.

The ranger then rounded up more than 20 tourists to help carry Mr Wright out of the gorge, sometimes passing him above their heads while trying to keep his head higher than his leg.

Mr Wright said he ‘didn’t feel like he was in his own body’.

“I could hear them saying, ‘It’s better that you lose your leg, than let poison get into you’,” he said. “So, just knowing what was going on … that was stressful,”

It took more than an hour to get Mr Wright to the ambulance, which took him to Tom Price Hospital where he finally received antivenom.

Sadly, not all future brown snake bite victims will enjoy the string of lucky breaks that Mr Wright did, and that is why the authorities’ call for greater vigilance on bushwalks and in remote campsites should resonate more than ever with grey nomads and other travellers.

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3 Responses to Thong-wearing tourist recalls snakebite terror

  1. Wearing thongs while walking in the Australian bush? HELLO !
    He may choose a different foot ware for his next bush trip. Once again if
    not for the volunteers and a huge amount of luck this bloke is very lucky
    to be able to tell his story.

  2. Should have been wearing “Crocs”…!

  3. Recent experience at St Lawrence has shown how quickly these things could escalate. Walking on the path to the wetlands a very friendly Butcherbird that we had been feeding swooped down 3 metres in front of us and put up a 1.5 metre brown snake which slithered across the path. It was very feisty as we retreated , my wife was closest to the side of the track and possibly could have been bitten. If not for our feathered friend.To say that Butcherbird’s are now our favourite bird is an understatement. Be careful out there especially in remote areas.

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