Vessel grounds while skipper asleep
A Maritime New Zealand investigation into the grounding of a fishing vessel in Otago on 20 July, found the accident happened because the 31-year-old skipper fell asleep while on watch.
The Gem, an 11-metre-long fishing vessel, left Port Chalmers at 4am that morning, and hit rocks on Taieri Island at 7am. Attempts to manoeuvre the vessel off the rocks failed, and The Gem broke up and sank. The skipper and his two crew got ashore safely.
Maritime NZ Investigator Zoe Brangwin says the skipper was aware of the dangers of falling asleep while watchkeeping, and he took sensible measures to avoid this, but these alone were not enough to prevent them falling asleep.
" The skipper had slept for about four and a half hours earlier that night, and he'd napped for 30 minutes during the journey while a crewmember was on watch. He'd resumed watch at 5.30am.
" It was sensible to keep short watches and nap in-between, but this wasn't enough. Like most skippers, he was unsure of the dangers of fatigue, but never thought this would happen to him. And he didn't have a watchkeeping alarm on the vessel because he thought he'd already taken enough precautions.
" There are several things he should have done to avoid falling asleep, which other skippers can learn from. Among these, a watchkeepers alarm is essential as it'll wake you up because it has to be switched off manually. And an echo sounder alarm will also alert watchkeepers if the vessel is in danger of grounding, " she said.
Maritime NZ has passed several recommendations to the skipper, including that he use an echo sounder in future, and fits a watchkeeping alarm to his next vessel. The skipper will also speak about his experience at a Maritime NZ safety seminar.
Since the beginning of 2004, fatigue has been a causal factor in 10 commercial maritime accidents, and two recreational accidents. Due to concerns about fatigue at sea, Maritime NZ is developing practical guidance material to help those working in the commercial industry to manage fatigue.
© 2005 Marime New Zealand Accident Investigation Team
Junior doctors at Rotorua Hospital say they're so overworked they avoid driving home at night for fear of falling asleep behind the wheel. Fatigue is such an issue, they say, they are more likely to take a taxi or stay at the hospital overnight.
Rotorua's doctors, who threatened strike action last year due to what they called unreasonably long shifts, are backing the findings of a nationwide survey of their colleagues which revealed young doctors are dangerously overworked.
However, the Lakes District Health Board insists it has checks in place to ensure burnt-out doctors are not endangering patients.
The Massey University survey of nearly 1400 junior doctors found some were working more than 70 hours a week. Nearly half reported they had fallen asleep at the wheel driving home from work and four out of 10 said they had made a fatigue-related medical error over a six-month period.
Carl Huxford, a surgical registrar at Rotorua Hospital, agreed fatigue was an ongoing concern.
As part of a contract with district health boards, registrars are not supposed to work more than 72 hours a week. But Dr Huxford said it was typical for surgical registrars to work more than the maximum once a month.
"We're rostered on for less than 70 hours a week but it's not always practical for a hospital of this size to have a lot of staff on, " he said. " If work has to be done, someone has got to do it. " Dr Huxford regularly works 8am to 11pm but can occassionally be called back to work before 8am the next morning.
"That can happen twice a week which means you can be at hospital for nearly 24 hours."
Long hours affected registrars in different ways, but it was common for them to be tired and grumpy, he said. " You don't always work efficiently so that means there are days when you don't enjoy work as much. You're more tired outside of work as well and that can be frustrating."
There have been times when he was so tired at the end of a shift, he took a taxi home or slept at the hospital to avoid driving home.
Although only 40 per cent of doctors surveyed admitted to making a medical-error due to fatigue, Dr Huxford said he thought the problem was more widespread. Doctors had to remember extensive information and may not get much time to record everything.
"You might have 15 minutes' worth of information in your head but you might only get five minutes to write everything down. "
Another junior doctor, Anne-Marie Yardley, stressed Rotorua Hospital was "not as bad" for overworking its staff as others around the country.
The Resident Doctors' Association which represents junior doctors, has rated the Lakes District Health Board as the top-rating health board for junior doctor placings for the past three years.
Communications officer Sue Wilkie said the health board had processes to limit the number of hours junior doctors worked, with most working no more than 55 hours a week.
Asked what checks were in place to ensure overworked doctors were not risking the safety of patients, Miss Wilkie said senior doctors provided supervision and made sure their younger colleagues followed strict health and safety practices.
A spokeswoman for the doctors' union, Deborah Powell, said the present situation in many hospitals was "not acceptable"
"Doctors are still working 10-day shifts without a break, but that's certainly an improvement on the 12 days previously, and night shifts are now limited to four consecutive shifts instead of seven.
"If we improve conditions for doctors, we will also improve conditions for patients.
"If doctors are happy and healthy, their patients will be better off too.".....
©2005 Rotorua Daily Post.
A WELSH rugby fan will appear in Hamilton District Court today on serious driving charges after a Cambridge teenager died from injuries suffered in a collision with the tourist's campervan.
Elizabeth Neels, 18, died in Waikato Hospital on Saturday. Her car and the campervan had collided between Hamilton and Cambridge on Thursday night.
Police confirmed yesterday the Welshman, 24, had been charged with dangerous driving causing death, and dangerous driving causing injury in relation to two passengers in the campervan. Police allege the campervan had crossed the centre line.
Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman said the rugby fan and two companions had arrived in Auckland earlier on Thursday after a 36-hour flight from Britain. They got the van at 10.30am and spent the afternoon in Auckland before heading south about 5.30pm. The crash happened two hours later at Karapiro. The driver's two companions were asleep in the back of the van.
"They planned to share the driving but they didn't get that far, unfortunately. They've probably been saving for this trip for years and it was all over on day one."
Fatigue was a big factor in the crash, Mr Tooman said. Added to that was that New Zealand roads were different to those they were probably used to. " We have very few central dividing median barriers and you make a mistake, cross that centre line and if a a car's coming the other way it's history."
Mr Tooman said their were up to 1500 rental vans on New Zealand roads and he advised all drivers to take special care. He was unsure what advice was given out by the rental car firms. They reminded people of the need to stay left and gave out booklets on how to drive safely, but he was unsure whether those coming off long-haul flights were told to have a good rest first.
Automobile Association secretary-general George Fairbairn said accidents involving tourists were a worry. Those helping people to plan their intineries should be advising tourists to take their time to adjust to local driving conditions, he said.
Mr Fairburn said that he had heard of people being given itineries which had them arriving at Auckland Airport overnight, picking up a vehicle by 9am, travelling to Waitomo and getting to Rotorua that night.
It was a trap for tourists who might not realise the distances involved, that New Zealand did not have motorways and that the roads were narrow and winding. " It's a pattern...too many tourists don't take that first day in New Zealand to adjust, catch up on sleep, get used to our environment and take off on their travels on the next day. "
© 2005 The Dominion Post.
It is about noon on Dec.21, 1999. Melissa Cullen and her dad, Marvin Parks Jr., were driving in Delaware to place a Christmas wreath by her mother's graveside. Then they were going to share a lunch, just the two of them.
The last thing Melissa remembers is seeing a car veer across the center line - a car with no driver. When she woke up, he father, 74 was dead. Melissa had injuries that required multiple surgeries and confined her to a wheelchair for seven months. She could not return to work as a teacher, could not care for her 3-year-old son and lost her house because of medical bills.
What caused the crash in midday ? A 39-year-old woman who had fallen asleep at the wheel. She was a night-shift worker and single mom with four children who had worked all night, then slept less than three hours before the crash. " She got two points on her license and a $115 fine for killing my dad," says Melissa, 42. " I hoped they would at least revoke her license for while and make her take classes. My dad fought in two wars, spent 42 years working as a chemical engineer for DuPont, cared for my mom through cancer and was a model citizen." But Delaware, like 48 other states, has no specific legal penalties for falling asleep at the wheel.
"Drowsy driving is a silent tragedy," says David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, one of the nation's top sleep experts. The best estimates are that 100,000 auto crashes each year are the result of driver fatigue, with at least 71,000 people injured and 1500 killed. But most experts believe those figures are far too low. In Europe - which does measure incidents of drowsy driving - up to 20% of highway crashes are caused by driver fatigue.
By Lyric Wallwork Winik Published:
After their daughter almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning, a Valley family wants summer vacationers to do more than kick automobile tires before they gas and go.
Paul and Vickie Womacks said a doctor told them they were fortunate their then 2-year-old daughter awoke after breathing what should have been a lethal dose of carbon monoxide from their leaking exhaust system on their 1990 Isuzu Imark.
"Tori had been sleeping and woke up having a seizure," Vickie Womacks said. "She'd never had a seizure before. It was a nightmare."
The Womackses took three medical detours en route to visit Ohio relatives. They said their daughter's first of three seizure episodes struck as they entered Tennessee, shortly after leaving their Trinity home.
"We stopped at a gas station and noticed a clinic across the street," Vickie Womacks said. "We had her checked out at the clinic, and she was fine."
Thinking the episode isolated, the Womackses continued their journey.
"About 20 minutes later her eyes rolled back into her head, and she started gritting her teeth," Paul Womacks said. "An ambulance carried us to Vanderbilt Hospital."
Doctors kept Tori overnight, and Paul and Vickie, who was pregnant with their second child Byron, stayed in a Nashville hotel room.
"The hospital did a CAT scan and all the tests they could think of," Paul Womacks said.
The next morning, the Womackses resumed their travels, making it to Elizabethtown, Ky., before Tori's seizures returned. Paul Womacks spoke with his brother, and the Ohio mechanic told him to check his exhaust system for leaks.
The Womackses said they compounded the problem, thinking their burning eyes and headaches were caused from allergies, so they kept their windows up and used the air conditioner.
"A piece of the tailpipe had fallen off," Paul Womacks said. "Doctors checked Tori for carbon monoxide poisoning, and said she had 17 percent in her body. They said that was enough to kill two adults."
Vickie said doctors found a 14-percent carbon monoxide concentration in her blood and 11 percent in Paul's.
"They put all three of us in a hyperbaric chamber for about 90 minutes and kept us overnight for observation," Vickie Womacks said. "They said most people just go to sleep and don't wake up."
Paul Womacks took their car to a repair shop the following morning. "I see it all the time," said Chuck Swain, owner of Decatur's Midas Muffler Shops since 1985. "Carbon monoxide doesn't have a smell, but a car is porous and the fumes go right up through the body and make people sick."
Swain said carbon monoxide poisoning is more of a problem in the winter and summer months when windows are raised, and the poisonous gas accumulates more on long trips.
"It goes from the trunk right into the back seat," Swain said. "And if you start getting sleepy, that's a sign. It's usually not a problem with newer cars, but older cars, especially if they've been wrecked, could have crimped pipes."
Swain said he doesn't charge for an exhaust inspection.
"If the car needs work, we'll give them an estimate," Swain said. "There's no obligation."
The Womackses, who now live in Tuscumbia, said they haven't suffered adverse effects from the trip, and that Tori hasn't had a subsequent seizure.
© 2004 The Decatur Daily News, Alabama, United States.
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