Boy’s skull cracked in shark station fall

CALL FOR ACTION: Anne Johnson with son Harley. Picture: Ryan OslandTHE mother of a 12-year-old boy who suffered horrific injuries after falling off the Swansea shark weighing station has called for action to prevent others from suffering the same fate.
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Harley Johnson, a Swansea High year 7 student, sustained a 10-centimetre crack in his skull, a bad case of concussion and two broken wrists after falling several metres off the structure on to concrete.

His mother, Anne Johnson, said the crack in her son’s skull went from ‘‘the middle of his head down to his ear’’.

Harley spent six nights in hospital, including three days in intensive care.

‘‘He had to have his wrists operated on twice,’’ Mrs Johnson, of Belmont, said.

‘‘All I could think on the way to the hospital was ‘he’s going to be in a wheelchair, he’ll have brain damage’.’’

After he fell, bones were ‘‘coming through the skin on both sides of his wrists’’.

‘‘Doctors had to pull some bones out and push some in and reset them,’’ she said.

‘‘Unfortunately a week later, because he broke them so badly, they had to take him back in and rebreak them and put pins and wires in to hold them together.’’

Paramedics estimated the structure Harley fell from to be about six metres high.

Doctors told him he was lucky to be alive.

Boys and girls were known to climb the structure and jump into Swansea Channel – a practice that had been happening for years.

It had become a rite of passage for kids in the area.

Harley was with four mates when he climbed the structure on February 17.

Witnesses say Harley was sitting on a metal beam at the top, with one foot resting on a wire below it.

The wire snapped and tangled around his ankle.

He fell and swung into a pole, which knocked him unconscious.

He hung upside down for a few seconds before falling on to concrete.

‘‘You could say he shouldn’t be doing it, but he’s 12 and he hasn’t got that right and wrong thing and being sensible quite happening yet,’’ Mrs Johnson said.

‘‘The kids just look at it and say ‘it’s a cool climb’.

‘‘There’s nothing there to stop them climbing and no sign saying do not climb or jump off it.’’

She called for ‘‘something to deter kids from climbing it’’, such as barbed wire or a fence or some other innovative solution.

‘‘There will probably still be kids who climb it, but they could make it a lot more difficult,’’ she said.

‘‘I don’t want to make trouble, but I don’t want another mother to go through this. For the next parent, the call might be ‘your son’s on his way to the morgue’.’’

Swansea MP Garry Edwards said he ‘‘felt sorry for the kid’’.

‘‘If I can be a conduit to come up with a solution or a better way of trying to keep kids out of there, I’ll do it,’’ Mr Edwards said.

He added the matter would probably spark debate about the ‘‘nanny state’’ and levels of personal responsibility.

Lake Macquarie Game Fishing Club owns the structure and leases the land from Lake Macquarie City Council.

Club president Paul Hogg said the club had ‘‘recently been made aware of an accident occurring on or near its weigh station’’.

‘‘The club hopes for a speedy and full recovery, as I am sure everyone does,’’ Mr Hogg said.

‘‘Our thoughts are with the family of the young boy.’’

SERIOUS: Harley suffered a skull fracture and two broken wrists in the fall from the shark weighing station.

Mr Hogg said the club did not have ‘‘the full details of the incident’’.

‘‘We have not been contacted by police or council, the owner of the land,’’ he said.

‘‘The club will be conducting an internal investigation into the incident and will, of course, co-operate with any external investigations that may be undertaken.’’

The council confirmed it leased the land to the fishing club, but did not comment on whether anything should be done to prevent kids climbing the structure.

Mrs Johnson was determined to ‘‘get something done about it’’.

‘‘I’m not going to be popular, ruining the kids’ fun,’’ she said.

Harley did not remember much about the accident.

He said the road to recovery had been tough.

He couldn’t use his hands for a couple of weeks, but was now regaining some use of them.

‘‘I can’t be active, like I always am – I have to sit at home all day,’’ he said.

Mrs Johnson said he was expected to make a full recovery.

The weigh station was the scene of a picture, published in the Newcastle Herald in January, of a tiger shark being weighed after it was caught in a game-fishing competition.

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