Home » Media Analysis » Man dies after truck gets bogged.

Man dies after truck gets bogged.

Only yesterday I was writing about a man who died after his car broke down in the remote Northern Goldfields area of Western Australia.  Less than two weeks later, another man has died in the outback, after leaving his bogged vehicle and trying to get help.

It is another sad story that could have been avoided with a simple remote communication plan.

In the latest case, a truck delivering supplies to a remote Station became bogged, and the driver attempted to walk out for help.  Police were notified when the truck was overdue and through the bush telegraph, search parties were sent out from neighbouring Stations.  A station worker found the man’s body and contacted police.

It is a sad reminder that if you do breakdown, or get bogged, you should remain with your vehicle.  It is also a stark reminder of the dangers of outback travel.  Any commercial operator should consider equipping their vehicles with simple affordable devices to ensure that in the event of a breakdown or bogging, assistance can be arranged.

Details of such devices can be found here: Save Our Selves – a guide to getting help in remote areas.

It reminded me of our trip last year through remote parts of South Australia in February.  Recent rains had made parts of the Oodnadatta Track very boggy.    Whilst the road was generally in good condition, many of the water courses were deeply washed out.  Many still had water in them, but they generally had a firm base.

When trying to get a photo near Lake Eyre South, we nearly became bogged in deep sticky mud.  We were following other tracks just off the road, looking for the perfect shot, when it became apparent that we were starting to sink through the salty crust into a boggy clay.  There was nothing to do other than floor the accelerator and hope.  As we crawled closer to the formed road and salvation, my eyes were scanning for a possible place to anchor our hand winch.  There was nothing.

Somehow we made it to the road, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  We had made it out of the mud.  But what if we hadn’t?

The thought of what we would have done if we hadn’t made it out wasn’t pleasant.  It was hot, and the exertion involved in extracting the car would have placed us at serious risk of heat-stroke.  At least we had plenty of food and water, and if it came to it, we would have waited until the cool of the day or evening to attempt getting out.  We also had appropriate equipment (Mud/Sand Tracks), long-handled shovel and a hand winch.  We also had a registered Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) for if things got desperate.

On no account would we have left the car and tried to walk out.

It was a reminder of how easily it could have gone wrong.  But for us it would have been an inconvenience, not a battle of life and death.

It should always be an inconvenience.  What is your remote communication plan?

Source: The West Australian Dated 18 January 2015 (link to story)

 

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2 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    It is worthwhile noting that if the events which took the truck driver’s life while his truck was bogged near Meekatharra had happened 30 years ago, the outcome would have been a completely normal day for outback trucking.
    For many years from the late 1970’s most long haul trucks were equipped with Single Side Band (SSB) HF CB radio.
    over the years UHF radio has taken over due to clearer transmission between vehicles. However UHF is only for very short range and useless in the situation this driver found himself.
    Mobile telephones are fine if there is reception, but this is not the case in majority of outback geography.
    If an EPIRB was activated in a remote area, this would usually result in a costly aeroplane or helicopter dispatched when a simple message of problem is all that is required for help to arrive in due course.
    Satellite phone is the ideal, but clearly some operators baulk at the cost, regardless of this, cheap radio back-up should always be available.
    Single Side Band CB radio was superseded by technology that did not do the same job.
    The result is what we have experienced.
    Critics of the old technology will say that long-range transmission / reception is patchy and unreliable.
    It is true you may not get an immediate result in a remote location, but from many years of personal experience extending well beyond the 11 year solar cycle that dictates radio “skip” from the ionosphere, there would rarely be a day in Australia’s North West where long range ability was not available some time during each day.
    We have gone from a situation where almost every truck operating in remote areas carried this cheap life-saver, to none.
    Some of the more organised outback operators carry RFDS network HF radios, but again expensive compared to the humble SSB CB.
    These radios have simply fallen out of favour as the mobile phone network and internet have grown, but I believe there is still very much a need for casual Australian four wheel drivers, outback tourists, and truck drivers to maintain use of 27 Meg Hz SSB CB radios.
    There are still a couple of SSB CB radio manufacturers and at around $250, it would only take a critical mass of a few hundred truck and casual operators Australia-wide to re-establish a small network of users and once again have the airwaves monitored, with listeners ready to offer assistance and pass on critical information.
    That’s the way it used to be thirty odd years ago. Circumstances such as being bogged in a remote area were completely normal and dealt with accordingly on the casual Citizen Band SSB radio network.
    The conditions haven’t changed, simply the fashion, and it has left a major hole in nation-wide communications for those stranded.
    Industry and authorities would be wise to encourage outback drivers to invest in SSB 27 Meg CB radios to re-establish enough users, so these deaths can be easily avoided, as they were in the past.

    • Thanks for your feedback Andrew,

      I fondly remember listening to the cackle of a 27 MHz CB radio, often amazed that the person at the other end of the radio was far far away. It is a technology, that along with HF SSB radio is fast disappearing in this modern digital age.

      There are many devices now that use satellite technology to allow messages to be sent alerting that you need assistance, but your situation isn’t life threatening. These messages can be pre-programmed, or your mobile phone can draft and send a message via a bluetooth link. We have used one such device. The HELP button was programmed to send a message advising that we were broken down or bogged and needed a tow. The SOS button activated the same response you could reasonably expect if you had activated an EPIRB or PLB. The advantage over a radio is they are small and portable, meaning you can use them bush-walking, as well as in your car. You can also use the GPS in them to map your position for sharing with whomever you wish, anywhere in the world.

      The technology only costs marginally more than the old radios (the initial outlay is less, but there is an annual subscription fee), but the capability they provide means many people prefer the new devices.

      I think as we put in place systems to keep track on vehicle movements, we often lose the personal touch where everyone watches out for everyone else. When you read stories of people like Tom Kruse, or Len Beadell, you realise our outback roads were forged by tough, resourceful people. The environment today is just as harsh. There are many devices today that mean you don’t have to risk your life if you get bogged or break down on these roads, whether you be there for pleasure or work.

      I hope that through this blog and my e-book I can share some of what is available to make sure no one else dies because they didn’t have appropriate equipment with them.

      Thank you again for your comments,
      Phil

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