Discovering four bodies, including three children, will live with the police and paramedics who attended for the rest of their lives.
Discovering four bodies, including three children, will live with the police and paramedics who attended for the rest of their lives.

How toll of Tullamarine will hit first responders

Police rush to horrific scenes when the natural human instinct is to run from them.

Discovering four dead bodies in a house, including two sisters and a younger brother aged seven, five and three, will live with those police officers and paramedics for the rest of their lives.

And although police and ambulance officers who attended the tragic aftermath of Thursday's murder-suicide may feel fine today, their trauma may be triggered years from now.

The direction at the crime scene in Tullamarine on Thursday was simple.

The Saturday Herald Sun has been told that before the homicide squad arrived in Burgess St, only three police officers were allowed inside the house.

It served two purposes - to protect the crime scene from contamination and limit the exposure of what had occurred inside on numerous police attending the scene.

Police at the scene of the murder/suicide at Tullamarine. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
Police at the scene of the murder/suicide at Tullamarine. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said limiting exposure was an important measure to protect first responders.

Sgt Gatt is familiar with the stress, having attended numerous crime scenes.

He makes the point that he can vividly remember them because the job requires documenting evidence.

And dealing with pressure.

"It is so difficult when it comes to mental health,'' Mr Gatt said.

"You can't brace yourself for something you don't see coming.''

Sgt Gatt knows those emergency personnel who attended the Burgess St tragedy cannot "unsee'' the unimaginable.

"No matter how much training or resilience we get, our members are just human beings,'' he said.

"We're not programmed to deal with everything we are confronted with."

Although Sgt Gatt says there is more work to be done, the support surrounding those who stand between the community and harm is getting better.

Police rush to horrific scenes when the natural human instinct is to run from them Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling
Police rush to horrific scenes when the natural human instinct is to run from them Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling

Victoria Police has improved its debrief sessions along with its access to welfare support services and psychologists.

The association also offers services to bolster what the force offers.

The stress on Ambulance Victoria's paramedics also leaves scars.

Lee, a paramedic with Ambulance Victoria's Westmeadows branch, arrived at the Tullamarine home on Friday to lay a tribute on behalf of his team.

Several of his colleagues attended the scene on Thursday have been "deeply affected" by what they saw.

"They're doing OK but it's not a normal thing for them. Yes, we have distressing elements to our role but incidents like this are rare so they're affected. It's tragic," he said.

"On behalf of the Westmeadows (branch) we want to share our condolences to the family and community.

Lee, a paramedic, lays a floral tribute on behalf of the team at Ambulance Victoria's Westmeadows station Picture: Andrew Henshaw
Lee, a paramedic, lays a floral tribute on behalf of the team at Ambulance Victoria's Westmeadows station Picture: Andrew Henshaw

"We share the community's heartbreak.

"[My colleagues] are shaken. It's a horrible thing for anyone to attend. Normally, paramedics see distressing things but the tragedy that occurred here yesterday affects all of us."

Sgt Gatt said the job inherently relies on dealing with traumatic situations and recognising the cumulative impact was critical.

"In a century men and women in all uniforms will still be going to tragic scenes,'' he said.

"It's not always easy to pick the situation that will be the tipping point.''

The Saturday Herald Sun has been told statistics soon to be released will reveal a shocking toll mental health issues has had on our police force.

Originally published as How toll of Tullamarine will hit first responders


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