Two women died in a two-vehicle accident on the Warrego Highway near Minden on Saturday. Picture: 7 News
Two women died in a two-vehicle accident on the Warrego Highway near Minden on Saturday. Picture: 7 News

Ambos bypassed in fatal highway crash callout

TWO on-call paramedics were not tasked to attend a horrific highway crash despite being just a few minutes' drive from the fatal accident scene.

The crash on Saturday, on the Warrego Highway near Minden, 60km west of Brisbane, claimed the lives of two women - 18-year-old Imojen Casey from Redbank Plains and 67-year-old Sheila Wilkinson from Regency Downs.

A 21-year-old female passenger was critically injured and the 37-year-old male driver of the other vehicle received minor injuries.

The Courier-Mail can reveal that paramedics at Minden and Marburg, rostered on "Emergency Availability'' and equipped with ambulances, work pagers and phones, were not utilised despite being only minutes away.

The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) dispatching blunder was revealed as Imojen's family told The Courier Mail of their heartache.

"I never thought the day I would be saying goodbye to (Imojen) before me would come," Imojen's older sister Jazmine said.

"I have lost my best friend, my sister and my world. I can definitely say (she) is the most beautiful sister anyone could of asked for.''

QAS confirmed it received an emergency call at 11.47am and dispatched an ambulance from Rosewood, 15km away, which was on scene 14 minutes later at 12.01pm.

An emergency services source said the local on-call paramedics could have been there 11 critical minutes earlier.

The source said it was a serious blunder that raised concerns about the efficiency of the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system.

The on-call officers were also not used as back-up, with a total of six ambulances attending, some from further afield at Ipswich.

QAS was third on the scene behind firefighters, who had a vehicle passing at the time, and police who attended at 11.57am, within 10 minutes of the triple-0 call.

An aerial view of the crash site. Picture: RACQ LifeFlight
An aerial view of the crash site. Picture: RACQ LifeFlight

A QAS spokesman confirmed there were staff on call at Minden and Marburg at the time of the accident. But he said both officers had been on two other jobs overnight and there were concerns they were fatigued.

"This dispatch decision was appropriate and deemed most suitable … considering the fatigue of the on-call staff. This was considered the better option,'' the spokesman said.

Jazmine said she did not resent QAS for not arriving at her sister's accident scene earlier.

"I have been told that there wouldn't of been any difference because she had a lot of chest (injuries)," she said. "They did what they could when they got there."

Close friend Jesse Sarich-Gatenby said she was still in shock after hearing the news of Imojen's death.

"She was an absolute bright beautiful person who always brought out the best in people and was an absolute joy to be around,'' Ms Sarich-Gatenby said.

"She was an amazing person, she will be dearly missed and always loved.''

Fatal crash on Warrego Highway. Picture: Terry Royan
Fatal crash on Warrego Highway. Picture: Terry Royan

Veteran paramedics told The Courier-Mail that emergency availability was built into the roster in regional and rural areas which did not have 24-hour stations like their metropolitan counterparts. After a normal shift, officers went home, but were on call. It was common for them to be utilised several times and they expected to be sent to serious incidents, such as road accidents. They were paid an allowance plus penalty rates.

One paramedic said they could be sent to five or six jobs while on call and fatigue was usually managed by the paramedics themselves via a "fatigue calculator'' that gauged their ability to work effectively.

"Fatiguing off (telling comms they are too tired to continue) is usually left up to the paramedic.

"For a job like this (the Minden crash) it would be a no-brainer to get called out. It's a classic example of when you would be needed.''

The paramedic said the 11 lost minutes were significant as early intervention was critical in serious emergencies, like accidents, where airway manoeuvres, CPR and quick assessment of injuries could make an enormous difference to the outcome.

Another source said the protocol with emergencies had always been "the closest ambulance gets sent''.

"How fatigued we are has never been too high on the agenda and paramedics all over the state know what it's like to be going flat out for very long periods of time.''

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Steven Miles, declined to comment as it was "an operational matter''.