Misdiagnosis delayed vital treatment for methanol-poisoned teen

Liam Davies' family say visitors to Indonesia should be made aware of what happened to their son.
Liam Davies' family say visitors to Indonesia should be made aware of what happened to their son.

A Kiwi teenager who died from methanol poisoning after holidaying in Indonesia was misdiagnosed as having suffered a brain aneurysm.

It wasn't until 19-year-old Liam Davies was airlifted to a Perth hospital that his actual condition was picked up, but by then it was too late to save him.

His parents, Lhani and Tim Davies, from Taranaki, spoke for the first time about his death this week. They are calling for international authorities to investigate Liam's death "aggressively" and may take their own legal action against the bar where Liam was served the fatal cocktail.

"Liam did nothing wrong, he was enjoying a few drinks at a bar like anyone else would," Mr Davies said in a statement this week.

"You simply don't expect to be served a drink that is lethal. This could happen to anyone, it could be your partner, your teenage child."

Liam became ill on New Year's Day on Gili Trawangan Island, near Lombok. He had been to Rudy's Bar and drunk a vodka and lime mix. Mr and Mrs Davies said Liam's drink had been poured from labelled bottles in the bar and the 19-year-old had no reason to suspect it had been locally brewed and contained a fatal dose of methanol.

A coronial investigation has been launched, and it is understood that as part of that the Australian Federal Police may travel to Gili Trawangan to make inquiries.

Liam's funeral will be held in Perth on Tuesday. Yesterday Mr Davies said the family were focusing on saying goodbye to Liam and burying him.

"Our beautiful boy, aged 19, has been taken from us tragically. Liam, you are the essence of all our lives, we love you with all our hearts and hope that you are safe and at peace. We are truly thankful for the short time that we have had with you, and we will continue to keep you alive in everything we do. We love you more than words [can] say," his family said in a death notice.

Mr Davies said that Liam, who went to Indonesia with friends, collapsed on New Year's Day and was rushed to a local hospital. The first doctors to treat Liam did not think his illness was linked to methanol. Rather, they thought he had suffered a brain aneurysm. The teenager deteriorated quickly and after consultation with Australian specialists, it was decided to airlift him to Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital in Perth.

Mr Davies said due to the misdiagnosis, crucial hours were wasted where his son could have been treated.

"Medical staff need to be trained on the signs and treatment of methanol poisoning as early intervention could have given us a different outcome," he said. "If you have loved ones in Indonesia now we suggest you contact them and make them aware of what happened to our son, so that they do not fall prey to the same event."

Liam, who moved to Perth from Taranaki with his family when he was 6, spent several days on life support. But after doctors advised his family that his brain was too damaged to expect any recovery, a decision was made to turn his life support off.

Mr and Mrs Davies were now calling for authorities in Indonesia to stamp out the practice of selling locally brewed alcohol.

"We have decided to speak today in the hope that by sharing this tragic death of our son we may be able to warn others and prevent this hideous crime from taking another life," he said.

"We also speak today to protect our son's memory and reputation. Liam was a regular 19-year-old, working hard and loving life. He was excited about the future and his aspirations to travel the world. We hope the Indonesian authorities aggressively investigate not only Liam's death, but the many events where people have either died or been made seriously ill."

Mr and Mrs Davies had been receiving advice from the Australian consulate about potential action against the owners of Rudy's Bar.

- staff reporter and AAP

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