Aussie CEO in ‘good spirits’ after US assault

Colin Bettles was placed into an induced coma for several days following an assault on a San Francisco street. Picture: Supplied
Colin Bettles was placed into an induced coma for several days following an assault on a San Francisco street. Picture: Supplied

An Australian executive who was assaulted while on a work trip in the United States and placed into an induced coma for several days is in “good spirits”.

Grain Producers Australia chief executive Colin Bettles was walking back to his hotel after meeting with colleagues in San Francisco when he was assaulted and left semi-unconscious with severe injuries just hours after arriving in the city on July 4.

A passer-by called for help and the 54-year-old was taken to San Francisco General and Trauma Hospital and admitted to an ICU ward, where he was placed into an induced coma after suffering head injuries and a fractured eye socket.

Colin Bettles was placed into an induced coma after he was assaulted while walking back to his hotel. Pic: Facebook
Colin Bettles was placed into an induced coma after he was assaulted while walking back to his hotel. Pic: Facebook

GPA board member Andrew Weidemann confirmed Mr Bettles is now conscious and talking.

“He’s out of a coma but he is still in hospital and we’re waiting on a neurologist report to see how his recovery is going to be,” Mr Weidemann told the West Australian.

“Once we get the neurologist report we will know when he can come back. With this head trauma, he’s still in a potentially dangerous spot.”

As Mr Bettles’ phone and wallet were stolen in the attack, medical teams attending to his injuries were unable to identify him before placing him into a coma, leaving his loved ones unable to locate him.

Concerns for Mr Bettles’ whereabouts and safety were first raised when his partner Sue Acton realised he had failed to board a scheduled flight to New York.

Mr Bettles has been on a work trip in the United States when the incident occurred. Pic: Facebook
Mr Bettles has been on a work trip in the United States when the incident occurred. Pic: Facebook

Ms Acton called Ms Bettles’ best-mate”, former employer and former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack, who immediately called foreign minister Penny Wong and the Australian Federal Police in an attempt to locate him.

“We found him thanks to consular officials going hospital to hospital, ward to ward,” he told NewsWire.

Mr McCormack said a “feeling of relief swept over” him when he was told Bettles was alive on Monday evening.

Prior to finding him, Mr McCormack even considered calling former prime minister Kevin Rudd to help locate his dear friend.

Colin Bettles is a long time friend of former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack. Picture: Supplied.
Colin Bettles is a long time friend of former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack. Picture: Supplied.

“I thought well, if you can bring Julian Assange home, he can jolly well bring Col Bettles home and I didn’t have to because I got the call from Sue to say we found him,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed they are providing consular assistance to the family.

In a statement to the ABC, the San Francisco Police Department said there were no reports of Mr Bettles being the victim of any crime.

But Mr Mcormack noted his injuries, including a laceration to the back of his head, were consistent with an assault.

Mr Bettles is a former journalist, who covered the grains industry, and rural and agricultural issues for a decade. In 2018, he left journalism and started a new career as a media adviser for Mr McCormack.