Three people — an 11-year-old child and two women, aged 63 and 48 — have been hospitalized after the Army Jetty pier collapsed at Rottnest Island in Australia.
The collapse of the Army Jetty rendered the child unconscious, so his 48-year old mother, herself injured in the collapse, had to hold the boy's head above water until a man passing by on his own boat took him back to shore. The mother reportedly swam to the shore, but the other woman injured in the collapse was trapped between concrete slabs and the jetty and had to be freed by police officers when they arrived on the scene.
"We had to jam the slab up to free the woman, then swim her [100 meters] to shore," one of the policemen told reporters
However, the whole tragedy could have been avoided, as Army Jetty was found to be unstable several years ago. According to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), the pier was identified as having structural problems back in 2010. The pier has reportedly been closed to all but pedestrian traffic for years.
Rottnest Island Authority Chair John Langoulant said there had been no indication the jetty posed any risk to people using it. However, he conceded that the pier was "aging" and that the authority had recently set aside money to renovate it.
"The authority just last month allocated $500,000 for the jetty to effectively be upgraded for purposes of immediate concern, and we also agreed to take a study into the next couple of years to look at replacing the whole jetty," he told reporters.
"Interestingly, I was there on Sunday. I stood on exactly that piece of concrete," he added. "I walked off that jetty thinking we do need to redevelop it… but to identify it as being a real risk, there was no reason for me to be concerned when I stood there on Sunday."
The pier was examined again in 2014, with the Rottnest Island Authority report once again pointing out the deterioration of concrete on the jetty and recommending closing the pier to all but pedestrian traffic.
More details of an amazing rescue from Rottnest Island.. a mother with a broken ankle managed to keep her unconscious 11yo son above water after jetty collapse on Rottnest. Another family member trapped for 50mins underneath the concrete slab @TenNewsPerth @tendailyau pic.twitter.com/Ga5uSuUAev— Beau Pearson (@BeauPearson) 24 октября 2018 г.
Talking to journalists, Langoulant did not disclose what inspections and maintenance had been conducted at the facility in recent years, but he said that an "in-depth review" will be undertaken in the wake of the incident.
He also promised that travelling to the island is completely safe for tourists.
"The assets which we maintain we take great pride in, and we are distressed by this. This was a really unfortunate accident; that's how I see it, and we are going to get to the bottom of what has occurred in respect to this jetty over the years," Langoulant said. "Our main concern as the board of this island is to ensure that everybody who visits the island is safe and has a great time."