The Accident


Karijini Accident – An Extra-Ordinary Day

Karijini National Prk Accident

Simone & Family in Karijini


Simone Milligan, the nurse who was significant in helping Nick survive the first few hours has written her compelling story.  Below is just a synopsis of her fascinating story, how she took control while waiting for a doctor to arrive –  but in the event,  she had to wait a long time.Her story begins….”

My family had set off from Melbourne 3 months earlier to travel around Oz.  Being a qualified registered nurse I had put togeher a comprehensive first aid kit which included an intravenous kit.

We Were Prepared For Snake Bites

Travelling remote at times I wanted to be as prepared as I could be for an emergency, especially travelling with our young children,

snake bites being on the forefront of my mind.  Although at the time I thought it was overkill, its inclusion helped with Nick’s rescue.

Read further details and click the button below to download her full facinating story with new photographs.

karijini Accident Story

Read Detailed Story





Chords for Angels concert

Simone & family Karijini

Camping in Karijini

We were camping in Karijini National Park and our sightseeing eventually led us to arrive at Knox Gorge. I was told that someone had fallen off a cliff and it was shut as a result. I was pointed in the direction of a white ute where I met Yvonne, wife of Allen, to get more information. (see Yvonne’s account Karijini Accident).

Not Enough Equipment

I was absolutely terrified as to my own ability without senior guidance and the support of my colleagues, the lack of equipment and not to mention a hospital! I knew that I had intravenous equipment in the car and that if I could do anything to help it would be gaining intravenous access ready for the arrival of the ambulance.

Making a Personal Commitment

I had gained the necessary information from Yvonne to make my decision; the extremely hot weather conditions meant that dehydration would be an added issue for Nick and that the longer he didn’t have IV access, the harder it would be to get a line in.

Communication Difficulties

His difficulty communicating did not appear to be due to impaired cognitive function but more attributable to his compromised facial function.

The Weight of Responsibility

I set up for the procedure and washed my hands with a bit of water, being paranoid about how dirty we all were being campers, and donned my gloves.  I was just about to cannulate when the 10 or so people around us went silent.  I burst out in a sweat from the pressure I felt, and nearly turned to all to say either ”make noise” or for everyone to turn the opposite way until I’d finished.  Instead I got on with the task at hand thinking that the ambulance must have surely been just about to arrive and take over.

I remember often questioning if I was in breach  of my registration doing what I was doing in the middle of nowhere  thinking of all the repercussions, but it didn’t matter at the time as it was all about what was in the best interests of Nick and his survival!

Starting The Procedures

Karijini Accident Knox gorge

Bottom of Knox Gorge

My next priority was to very quickly clear Nick’s airway to assist in oxygenation.  Nick’s mouth and nose were filling with blood; he was in pain and beginning to have difficulty breathing.

Making Observations

Once I had effectively cleared the airway I focused on getting information from Nick for the ambulance arrival such as allergies, past history, current injuries and the observations which I could obtain such as respiratory rate and pulse all of which were allocated to a scribe to document as they were answered.

Arrival of  St. John Ambulance

Finally ambulance assistance arrived and I was greeted by two ladies in green overalls.  I began handing over what information I had been able to get off Nick but they didn’t seem to jump into action as quickly as I had anticipated.  One handed me the blood pressure cuff and when asking where the stethoscope was there wasn’t one. I was able to obtain Nick’s blood pressure radially by palpation.

Karijini Nick Melidonis

Ready for Transport Up Cliff Face

I needed suction, the equipment was there but it seemed that the ambulance officer was having difficulty in setting it up. Again I couldn’t understand why this was so.  I on the other hand couldn’t set it up either as all equipment is different and this system was unfamiliar to me. Together we got it going and I was able to suction Nick as required to aid his breathing which was very effective.

It then dawned on me that the ambulance crew were not actually Mica Paramedics that I was expecting to arrive but rather St. Johns Ambulance volunteers. One of the officers next said to everyone “OK, now we will be taking our instructions from Simone, she is the most senior here.”  It was at this point I nearly choked on the responsibility handed to me, but I had no choice but to continue with doing the best I could for Nick and his survival.

No Pain Relief

Pain relief was a huge thing on my mind for Nick.  The only pain relief the ambulance had was “the green stick” or penthrane, which works by the patient continually breathing on a green whistle-like apparatus.  The big problem with this was that Nick did not have a mouth to be able to successfully use it.

A Tourist Doctor

Finally the backup support I had been longing for arrived.  A tourist by the name of Mark came down.  He was a Doctor from Germany and boy was I relieved.  He had bought some equipment down from the ambulance including a stethoscope and was able to listen to Nick’s chest and abdomen, reassuring me that his lungs were getting air and seemed to be intact functioning.  Mark did his assessment and deemed Nick stable.

No Air Rescues

We were at what I thought a perfectly cleared and flat area for an air rescue and thought how lucky that  was , only next to be told that there are no air rescues and that they are all by foot.

Stabilising Nick for Transfer

Karijini Accident Knox Gorge

A long way down

Before Nick could be placed on the board we had to get the young female tourist out from under Nick’s head who had been sitting there for such a long time nursing his head on her legs, and as a consequence whose legs had gone to sleep.

After much planning we had decided how best to tackle getting Nick onto the spinal board and managed to do so with great team effort.  With neck collar in situ and head stabilised with rolled up towels taped to the spinal board we moved Nick to the open area with more room to organise ourselves and set up for transfer.

State Emergency Services Arrive

Meanwhile the SES was erecting their rescue frames, tripods and pulley ropes.  Nick was showing some signs of agitation and restlessness with his legs and I endeavoured to work out what was causing this.

Light Was Fading

Sunlight was going and we needed to get on to the evacuation point set up by SES before nightfall.  It took several people to hold the stretcher and others to guide and support those stretchering as at times it was very unstable, slippery and a tight squeeze underfoot.

It Wasn’t Over Yet

As the SES rescuer checked and fastened his clips, ropes and harnesses, rocks began to fall from above, he passed me a head shield that I was to put over Nick’s head, I realised that it wasn’t over yet and that in actual fact going up the cliff face was very dangerous and yet another hurdle to be crossed in order to get Nick to the safety of the above land.

Getting the Stretcher Up the Cliff

Just as Nick was secured into the ropes and about to go up he got my attention for suctioning, the ropes were loosened off and I was able to clear Nick’s airways for the last time before the ascent up the cliff to his transport for transfer to Tom Price Hospital.

Night was quickly approaching as they went up the cliff face.  I could hear the commands from the coordinator at the top of the cliff to the rescuers.  “SLOWLY SLOWLY…” I heard over and over.    “PULL PULL”…

Arrival at Clifftop

Nick arrived with the SES crew and Mark and I waited beside the ambulance not wanting to step in or on anyone’s toes as I assumed another person standing in green overalls was the Doctor that I understood was meant to be there.

Leaving for Tom Price Hospital

As much as I wanted to follow through Nick’s care and ensure his safe arrival to hospital I realised that I had done all I could do.

Volunteers Say Goodbye

Everyone involved in the rescue team efforts helped each other to pack up, a de-brief was held for the SES and anyone else who wished to join in, thanks were given to everyone for their collective efforts and a meal and accommodation offered to all by Fiona at the Eco Retreat.

The young women that had held Nick’s head for so long ended up almost catatonic in the back of the car.  It was found out later that she was terrified of blood yet had the courage to sit covered in it for more than 6 hrs.

Being Able to Help

In the beginning I didn’t think I could offer much more than the person next to me, I now know that I can actually help a great deal because of my training and would help again without hesitation.

Common Goal – To Rescue Nick

It had been an intense yet quick 6 hours, full of uncertainty and anguish. Each and every person was working so well in conjunction with each other, all with mutual respect for each other and working together towards one common goal, this being the safe and successful rescue of Nick Melidonis.


karijini Accident Story

Read Detailed Story

Editors note:  Read Karijini National Park Accident – Cliff’s Story  from another perspective.  Cliff mentions that Tom Price hospital was not able to help Nick and he had to fly with Royal Flying doctor Services to Perth, where fog prevented the aircraft from landing.

Please click the link to  book your tickets for the CHORDS FOR ANGELS concert Sunday 14th August 2011

After many surgeries, Nick’s recovery is complete.  Nick Melidonis recently won gold and silver awards at the Professional Photography Awards, Sydney