Matthew Theunissen is a business reporter

Father criticises 'teenage accident fatigue'

Photo / File
Photo / File

The father of a teenager injured in an alcohol-fuelled crash early on Sunday says the way his son was treated made him wonder whether emergency services are suffering "teenage accident fatigue".

The 15-year-old was the back-seat passenger of a car which failed to take a corner and rolled into a ditch in Te Puna near Tauranga at 3.30am on Sunday.

He suffered a head injury. The two 16-year-olds in the front were uninjured.

Police said the three were lucky to be alive.

The 15-year-old's father, Brian Davey, said emergency services initially thought his son was drunk, and he wasn't diagnosed with a head injury until he was in an ambulance.

He said his son had been admitted to intensive care, and comments made by ambulance staff that his injuries were minor "defy belief".

The family were not notified until his son was in hospital and nurses became concerned that no one had turned up to see him.

"The ambulance staff ... treated the issue so lightly that the attending police officer didn't think it was worth contacting us about the accident," Mr Davey said.

"Maybe the emergency services are suffering teenage accident fatigue and really don't care anymore, as if parents of teenagers haven't enough to worry about."

Mr Davey objected to the over-simplified way such incidents were often portrayed.

"It makes me sick, the rank hypocrisy of the adult world, pointing their finger and standing on their little pulpits. But we've all done it ourselves when we were kids.

"So I feel in no position at all to stand up and take these kids to task, especially living in a world where it's generally deemed to be cool to be tooling around in fast cars and drinking flash beer. It's pushed down our throats, far more than it was in my day, and we wonder why they crash off the road drunk."

He said his son was out of intensive care and was improving rapidly.

Senior Sergeant Wayne Hunter rejected that emergency services ever had "accident fatigue".

"I totally disagree. I've been to many accidents and always treated them as serious until proven otherwise. On the way there you're always going, 'I hope they're not dead, I hope they're not dead'. We never treat anything lightly."

He said the boys had acted like "dorks" when emergency services arrived, and had no visible signs of injury.

"The ambulance guys looked at them and couldn't find anything wrong and believed that they were just being, as I say, dorks.

"But he was taken to hospital as a precaution; so it's not accident fatigue, it's just the circumstances that surrounded the whole injury. At least they saw sense to take him to hospital to get him checked out."

The two boys who weren't taken to hospital were breath tested and found to be over the legal alcohol limit for adults, Mr Hunter said.

Both claimed to be unable to remember who was driving.

"They've suddenly got amnesia, supposedly," Mr Hunter said.

"It's very frustrating. We just want to get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened and who's responsible."

Should they fail to identify who was behind the wheel, both boys could be charged with driving with excess breath alcohol.

Police were yet to speak to the boy in hospital, but they were confident he was not driving.

St John Ambulance operations director Michael Brooke also rejected the concept of teenage car crash fatigue.

"St John Ambulance officers treat all incidents and all patients they attend to very seriously and equally. We attend acute incidents with lights and sirens, and are focused fully on treating our patients."


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