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Inside life of drug overdose victim

Danielle Whittaker’s friends and family have started Go Fund Me page to bring her body home to New Zealand. Picture: Facebook.
Danielle Whittaker’s friends and family have started Go Fund Me page to bring her body home to New Zealand. Picture: Facebook.

The career trajectory of a high-flying businesswoman who overdosed while celebrating her 40th birthday has been revealed.

Danielle Whittaker was partying with six friends on the Gold Coast on Friday when she went into cardiac arrest after ingesting several drugs.

Despite desperate attempts from paramedics, she could not be revived. Two of her friends were also taken to hospital.

In the days after her death, more details have come to light about the woman who graduated with a diploma in the culinary arts at 18, charted a successful career in sales and even spoke about writing a book.

At 25 years old, she began her corporate career at New Zealand’s largest telco, now known as Spark, before making the move to Brisbane where she worked at Telstra and CSG Print Services.

Danielle Whittaker overdosed while celebrating her birthday. Picture: Facebook
Danielle Whittaker overdosed while celebrating her birthday. Picture: Facebook
A Go Fund Me page has been started to help the family with the cost of bringing Ms Whittaker’s body back home to New Zealand. Picture: Facebook.
A Go Fund Me page has been started to help the family with the cost of bringing Ms Whittaker’s body back home to New Zealand. Picture: Facebook.

In June 2014, she flexed her entrepreneurial skills and developed a smartphone app called Fit Meet, which promised to connect “people based on their sport and location to find training partners”.

She worked as a district sales manager at Toyota in 2019 before taking over as an external sales manager at Super Steel Australia, where she spent the last four years.

In January this year, she left it all behind, informing her social media followers that she was writing a book about her 20 years experience in the sales industry.

“Launching a new company and offering in between some consulting work and other side hustles,” she wrote on her LinkedIn profile.

Danielle Whittaker. Picture Facebook 1.jpg
Danielle Whittaker worked a successful sales career for two decades. Picture: Facebook

Three months later, while celebrating the next chapter of her life, it was cut so tragically short.

Now, her loved ones have issued a desperate plea as they try to bring her body back to New Zealand.

A Go Fund Me page has been started to help raise funds for the family.

“Danni would want her body returned to the earth of New Zealand,” the post read.

“The costs for repatriation are expensive, around $10k, which is an unexpected cost on her family. Her friends would love to help the family out by raising money to assist.”

The post described Ms Whittaker as “larger than life and a “generous” person.

“If you could help with any gift, even shouting her a final drink, that would make a difference,” the post continued.

“The family are still processing their loss, and when the time is right, will share details of Danni’s funeral and memorial.”

Danielle Whittaker with Arnold Shwarzanegger. Picture Facebook.jpg
Danielle Whittaker pictured with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2015. Picture: Facebook

The post finished by encouraging friends and family to join the Facebook group “Celebrating Danielle (Danni) Whittaker”.

Tributes have continued to flow in for Ms Whittaker, who was known as a “Shamanic medicine woman” on social media.

She proudly worked to “build an army of courageous, empowered, soul driven women who are here to create change and make magic”.

Emergency services were called to the Surfers Paradise unit on the Gold Coast just after 11pm on Friday after it was reported a woman was unconscious.

Queensland Ambulance Service Inspector Mitch Ware said paramedics identified seven patients at the scene, including Ms Whittaker and two others who were rushed to the Gold Coast University Hospital.

“Upon our arrival, there were seven patients identified, three of which were critical, one of which was in cardiac arrest at the time,” he said.

“Unfortunately, despite specialists attempts on scene, which included our High Acuity Response Unit, that patient was unable to be revived at the scene and was declared deceased.”

As of Monday morning, one person remains in hospital in a stable condition, while the other has since been released.

Four other women were also assessed however did not require treatment.

Tributes have continued to flow in for Ms Whittaker, who has been remembered as ‘larger than life’. Picture: Facebook.
Tributes have continued to flow in for Ms Whittaker, who has been remembered as ‘larger than life’. Picture: Facebook.

Mr Ware said paramedics “frequently” responded increasing incidents involving recreational drugs, and he delivered a sobering warning against the act.

“I want to start off by paying my condolences to the family of the 40-year-old female who lost her life (but) I won’t sugar coat it – there is no such thing as a safe drug, there is no such thing as a party drug,” he said.

“When people are obviously buying these drugs there is an element of risk. You don’t know what’s going into them, you don’t know who’s made them.”

Police will carry out a toxicology report to identify the cocktail of drugs used.

Speaking to media on Tuesday, Superintendent Peter Miles said there was cannabis residue, ketamine and mushroom caps located in the room.

“What caused the actual overdose for those three women, we’re not quite sure yet,” he said.

“Whatever it was it was pretty potent. It’s a stark reminder that you don’t know what you’re putting in your system.”

He said the Gold Coast was experiencing overdoses related to GHB, ketamine and “heroin is making a bit of a comeback”.

“It’s a dangerous act ... you don’t know what you’re taking and you don’t know how you’re going to react and in this case it’s proven fatal,” he said.