Boy airlifted to hospital after mysterious encounter with sea creature

The eight-year-old was foaming at the mouth, struggling to breathe, and his eyes were rolling back into his head.

The mother of one of four children rescued from Queensland’s Fraser Island after a suspected sting from a deadly irukandji jellyfish has recalled the “horrific” two hours she watched her eight-year-old son “fight for his life".

The woman, her husband and her twin boys were on a week-long family camping trip to the popular holiday spot, but when they entered Wathumba Creek on Wednesday, December 28 they had no idea three little girls had been airlifted off the island less than 24 hours earlier.

It was at about 1pm when one of her boys said he'd been stung on his upper leg.

The RACQ LifeFlight rescue chopper on the beach on Fraser Island.
The eight-year-old boy was one of four children rescued from Fraser Island over two days after being stung by a suspected irukandji jellyfish. Source: RACQ LifeFlight

“I pulled him out of the water and looked for marks [but] I was unable to see anything,” the mother-of-two told Yahoo News. Australia. “I thought it may have been sea lice.”

Less than 40 minutes later, the severity of the situation had become apparent.

“My beautiful boy was in the water screaming in pain,” she explained. “I jumped in and pulled him out. He was screaming so bad.”

Eight-year-old told mum he ‘didn’t want to die’

Laying her son down in the shade, the woman called out for help. Fortunately for the Brisbane family, one of the beachgoers was a lifeguard, and while he tended to the boy his wife drove 40 minutes to get reception to call triple zero. It was another hour and a half before the rescue helicopter arrived.

“I had no idea that I would spend the next two hours watching my eight-year-old fight for his life,” she said. “My boy experienced two hours of a lifetime of pain. He was foaming at the mouth, he struggled to breathe, his eyes were rolling in the back of his head. At one point he said, I love you mum, I don't want to die.”

The little boy in the RACQ LifeFlight rescue chopper.
The little boy was flown to Hervey Bay Hospital where he was monitored in ICU and given pain relief. Source: RACQ LifeFlight

Before the chopper had taken off, the crew had stabilised the boy and administered pain relief. RACQ LifeFlight said the patient, accompanied by his mother, was flown to Hervey Bay Hospital in a stable condition with a suspected irukandji sting.

Once at the hospital, his mum said he was given multiple pain relief, and monitored in ICU, before being discharged later that night.

“He still has bad headaches and is screaming and crying in his sleep with night terrors,” his mother said. “His twin is also very teary as he witnessed what his brother went through.”

The mum says she is “angry as hell”.

A little girl, with her mother and another little girl, in the RACQ LifeFlight rescue chopper.
Less than 24 hours before the eight-year-old was stung, the rescue chopper was called out to Fraser Island twice to pick up three young girls who'd also been stung. Source: RACQ LifeFlight

“On Tuesday there were two choppers flown in with three beautiful girls fighting for their lives,” the mother of two said. “Obviously police and rangers have scanners and were fully aware of what occurred that day at Wathumba, but there was zero acknowledgement about the deadly dangers that loomed.”

“I think they had a duty of care to at least send a ranger or police that day or the following to advise people on what had occurred.”

Debate over mystery stinger

While all four children were airlifted to Hervey Bay Hospital last week with suspected irukandji stings, the hospital says the deadly creature isn't responsible.

“These patients received comprehensive assessment and rapid treatment and all were found to have been injured by non-toxic marine animals,” Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service COO Ben Ross-Edwards told Yahoo News Australia. “After receiving appropriate observation and clinical treatment, they were discharged and did not need inpatient care.”

An irukandji jellyfish next to a matchstick for comparison.
At just two centimetres in diametre, the irukandji jellyfish is one of the smallest and deadliest species. Source: AAP

The hospital would not be drawn on what other creature it could have been.

“I find that incredibly hard to believe,” irukandji expert, Associate Professor Jamie Seymour from James Cook University, told Yahoo News Australia.

“I would want to hear what the rest of the history was for that, but from what I've heard, the boy was in the water, had been stung by something and was in excruciating pain. There's nothing else it's going to be apart from an irukandji.”

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