Firies 'not to blame' for death
THE coroner's inquest into the death of Jesse Wickman has found the swift water rescue team involved in a failed rescue attempt were not to blame for the four-year-old's death.
The inquest report, handed down yesterday by State Coroner Michael Barnes, found fire and rescue officers Ian Bland and Brendan Ashby followed the correct procedures in the lead-up to Jesse being swept away near Minden.
It found Officer Ashby, who was carrying Jesse from the stranded family car to an area of calm water, lost control of the child when grabbing onto a rope in order to be pulled into the calm waters.
Mr Barnes said Officer Bland was following the correct procedure when he pulled Mr Ashby to safety before attempting to save Jesse.
"Officer Bland told the court he had formed the view at this point that he had good prospects of both pulling Officer Bland to safety and then successfully rescuing Jesse," he said in the report.
"Although he was tragically wrong in hindsight, there is no basis on which it could be said it was an unreasonable mindset to complete the one certain rescue that could be made."
Mr Barnes said he did not believe the officers "gave up" on Jesse.
"Brian and Katie Wickman said that from their perspective it appeared as though officer Ashby "gave up" on Jesse.
"This perspective was explored carefully at the inquest and although I can understand how they have come to that view from their vantage point on the vehicle, I do not accept it is at all a fair reflection of what occurred."
The report also found a communication breakdown between Officer Bland and the helicopter command meant a rescue helicopter was not deployed to search for Jesse.
"I am of the view Officer Bland conveyed information that would have prompted an adequately trained firecom operator to seek to elicit whether any further emergency rescue effort was required."
However, Mr Barnes said despite that it was unlikely a helicopter could have saved Jesse.
"Although I have indicated that aspects of the responses of emergency services personnel remote from the scene ... were not optimal, ... I do not suggest any different action is likely to have led to his being saved."