$50K fine after autistic man drinks weedkiller from Coke bottle

Yahoo News Staff
·4-min read

A volunteer groundskeeper has been fined $48,000 after a young autistic man drank a mixture of lethal chemicals he left in a coke bottle.

Damien Terry, 24, was at the Mangrove Mountain sports oval one morning in 2017 when he found the coke bottle in the public disabled bathroom, according to a decision by the NSW Land and Environment Court published on Friday.

Coke is one of Mr Terry’s favourite drinks and he was known to take other people’s drinks if it had coke in it, the court heard.

“Upon finding the Coke bottle in the bathroom on the day of the incident, Mr Terry would have had no conception that a Coke bottle could contain anything other than Coke,” a statement filed by Mr Terry’s mum, Julie Terry, said.

“He is incapable of understanding the danger of drinking something that is not provided for him and would not have been able to resist drinking one of his favourite drinks.”

Damien Terry, 24, drank weedkiller from a Coke bottle he found in a public bathroom, left there by a groundskeeper. Source: Getty Images
Damien Terry, 24, drank weedkiller from a Coke bottle he found in a public bathroom, left there by a groundskeeper. Source: Getty Images

Not long after returning from the bathroom, Mr Terry began vomiting a green colour and his carers called for help.

Mr Terry was taken to hospital, although it took over an hour by ambulance as he was unfamiliar with the process due to his autism making it difficult for him to adjust to change.

Mr Terry was discharged from the hospital the same day and the vomiting eased following treatment.

The hospital staff were told the substance Mr Terry ingested was likely non-toxic line-marking paint.

Later that day, after Mr Terry was discharged, he began vomiting again. As his condition worsened, his parents decided to take him back to the hospital.

One of Mr Terry’s carers asked the groundskeeper what was in the Coke bottle, who said he thought it was Triquat.

The doctor confirmed the substance Mr Terry had ingested was lethal and his family was told he only had hours to live given there was no antidote for the pesticide poisoning.

Mr Terry was moved to the ICU as his siblings made arrangements from Perth and Canada to fly back to NSW.

Two days after he was admitted to hospital, Mr Terry’s kidney’s started failing. Doctors had a dialysis machine waiting outside his room ready to go as they anticipated complete kidney failure.

“Over the next few days Mr Terry’s family waited in distress, anticipating a slow death. He was unable to take one of his usual medications as it did not have an intravenous alternative,” court records say.

“The lack of usual medications caused side effects. Mr Terry’s lungs were also impacted and a high-level dose of steroids was required in response.

“During this period Mr Terry continued to experience high levels of pain. He was becoming erratic and agitated each day, becoming aggressive with family members. It was difficult to encourage oral ingestion. Once he resumed eating, medication had to be ground up and hidden in food.”

Damien Terry was hospitalised for weeks and his family was told he was likely to not make it. Source: ABC
Damien Terry was hospitalised for weeks and his family was told he was likely to not make it. Source: ABC

During the following days, Mr Terry was in immense pain, was moved to the surgical ward on August 17.

Due to damage to Mr Terry’s gastrointestinal system, doctors said he would need to be monitored over the coming months, but was released from hospital on 28 August.

“Since the incident Mr Terry’s epileptic seizures have increased in frequency and intensity. His family continues to express concern for his long-term health,” the NSW Land and Environment Court report stated.

The volunteer groundskeeper was fined the sum of $48,000 by the court, records released on Friday show.

Groundskeeper Wayne McInnes apologised profusely to Mr Terry and his family.

"While I believe everyone involved made mistakes, mine was not disposing of the Coke bottle with the pesticide in it immediately and I have been kicking myself for the last three years,” he said according to the ABC.

"I have learned that I should never take the risk of putting chemicals into unauthorised containers.”

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