Teen hires lawyer after 5m library fall
THE teen who fell through the first floor of The Dome in Mackay city centre has hit back at claims he was playing in a closed-off area, or skylarking.
Mackay's Jake Cahill, 14, claims he was playing with friends in the Dudley Denny City Library outdoor play area on the first floor of The Dome, which houses the library, on January 9 when he "hopped over a little garden (planter) bed".
He fell through what he describes as a hidden, sun-damaged "plastic skylight", managing to slow his crash to the ground floor by grabbing at an edge - perhaps saving himself from further injury.
He broke both heels, his left wrist and damaged ligaments in his back, and has hired Shine Lawyers for a compensation case.
They told The Daily Mercury a Notice of Claim had been issued pending the outcome of an ongoing Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation.
Parents Dave and Ruby Cahill acknowledged Mackay Regional Council had paid for a wheelchair for Jake to use while he recovers.
Mackay Regional Council chief executive Craig Doyle could not comment about the incident due to the investigation but did say the council was working with the investigating officers.
He said the council was "very safety concious" and had a "full risk evaluation process into all its design processes and daily operational practices".
Jake admits he's a larrikin, but denies doing anything wrong in the lead-up to the incident.
"I went to play with a couple of mates and we were just running around the play area. I hopped over a garden and fell through a plastic skylight hidden behind the garden," he said.
"(The skylight) kind of dented in and collapsed. From what I saw, it was old and yellow-looking plastic.
"As soon as I landed on it, it broke. It was all pretty quick. I fell on my heels first and then I put my arm down. I couldn't even feel the pain really. I was shocked, I guess."
It is understood there is CCTV footage available but The Daily Mercury was unable to view or obtain it, due to the ongoing investigation.
Jake's mum Ruby said at first she didn't realise the extent of his injuries.
"The way he fell (by grabbing at an edge and falling on his heels) was the only way he got out of being more seriously hurt," she said.
"Of all the places Jake might ask to go, I thought the library was probably the safest place of all. I've always worried about my kids ... but when I realised (at the hospital) he was in a back brace and there was so many doctors in the room (I knew it was serious).
"He was calling for his sisters, wanting to tell everyone he loved them. It was pretty emotional."
The hospital ran Jake through a series of x-rays and scans; he was in hospital for three days the family said. He will now go through a period of rehabilitation.
Shine Lawyers' branch manager Craig Oliver said: "This was a designated child's play area and, really, we (Shine Lawyers) would want to "encourage council with fresh eyes from what's happened to review the safety of all children's playgrounds to make sure children using them aren't at the same risk".
In the meantime, Mrs Cahill said, "we just want to have Jake's side of the story out".
She said the family's finances had suffered a blow after she had had to give up her job as a cleaner, hopefully temporarily, to care for Jake.
He can't leave the family home, accessible only by steep steps, without being carried, and generally can't do anything particularly physical unless assisted.
An Office of Industrial Relations spokeswoman confirmed "the Dudley Denny Library matter is still under investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland".
On January 25, the council said it "re-opened the children's play area following the completion of its internal investigation" and "decided to remove the skylight and has covered the small area with reinforced panelling to reduce any further risks".
Mackay Regional Council's response in full
Mackay Regional Council CEO Craig Doyle says council's report into the January incident at the Dudley Denny City Library has been handed to the Inspector of Workplace, Health and Safety.
"The circumstances of the incident form part of that ongoing investigation and we have been very thorough as we continue to work with WHS officers," he said.
Mr Doyle said council has a full risk evaluation process into all its design processes and daily operational practices.
"We are very safety conscious and everything we do links to the relevant regulation and safety codes,"
"We encourage any member of the community to contact council should they be concerned about any hazard or safety matters," Mr Doyle said.
"As it is going through the legal process, we will not be saying anything further at this stage".