'H' Drawn in the Sand Alerts Rescuers to Stung Tourist

A tropical island getaway in the Whitsundays ended painfully for a Sydney tourist this morning when he was stung on the neck by a highly venomous Irukandji.

Friends of the 19-year-old Maroubra man drew a large H in the sand on the beach at Cid Harbour, on Whitsunday Island, after dialling 000 for help and setting of an EPIRB to alert the rescue helicopter of their location.

The man was swimming beside a boat near Whitsunday Island on the last day of a cruising holiday for his birthday. He was believed to be wearing a stinger suit which covered his arms when he was stung on the neck at about 8 am.

RACQ CQ Rescue was tasked about 8.50am that a patient had sustained a marine sting and required immediate assistance and transport to Mackay Base Hospital for further treatment. The helicopter and crew reconfigured for a potential winch over water and off a vessel before departing base at Mackay Airport.

The rescue helicopter, with a rescue crewman, Critical Care Paramedic (CCP) and doctor on board, arrived on scene about 9.30am and quickly identified the patient’s new location onshore by the H drawn in the sand. The patient had been taken ashore to a beach on Whitsunday Island to await medical aid.

An RACQ CQ Rescue aircrewman praised the quick thinking of the man’s friends and those aboard the vessel by assisting rescuers to locate the patient on the beach which enabled them to quickly land the helicopter on the sand nearby. The patient was in considerable pain and required immediate pain relief.

An Irukandji sting could turn into burning and increasingly severe pain within half an hour of the initial sting, he said. Other symptoms of Irukandji syndrome include severe muscle pain and cramps as well as nausea. Without urgent treatment, an Irukandji sting could potentially be fatal, the rescue helicopter crewman said.

The Mackay-based helicopter departed the island about 10 am and arrived at the Mackay Base Hospital shortly after with the man in a stable condition.