Rachel Fieldhouse

Travel Trouble

Grieving parents call for change after Aussie teen dies on school trip

Grieving parents call for change after Aussie teen dies on school trip

The parents of a teenager who died on an overseas school trip say more should have been done to prevent the death of their “fit and healthy” 15 year old.

Blackburn high-school-student Timothy Fehring was meant to be on the “trip of a lifetime” when he attended a school trip in Germany in 2019, along with 16 other students and two teachers who chaperoned during the trip.

But, after departing Melbourne and arriving in Germany on June 23, Timothy became ill.

His mum, Barbara, received a text from Timothy that read: "I almost threw up and am working on getting better so I can have a better time."

Barbara and her husband Dale said their son wasn’t one to complain and rejected claims he was just “homesick” in the leadup to his death.

"He was a super fit and healthy child and he would never want to make a fuss or bring attention to himself," Barbra told 9News.

As he continued to participate in activities, TImothy became violently ill, vomiting multiple times and eating very little on the first two days of the trip.

When a teacher took him to a chemist and explained his symptoms, he was given some medication. Waking up the next day, Timothy asked his mum to get him home.

"He expressed dissatisfaction about how he was being treated," the coroner’s findings read.

Timothy was then taken to Munich Children’s Hospital and “thoroughly examined” by a doctor, and left six hours later with a diagnosis of a combination of homesickness, constipation and gastroenteritis.

On June 27, he joined the group on a walking tour in Vienna, Austria, with the coroner’s findings stating he carried a “vomit bag”, walked slowly and looked tired.

He asked to go back to the hospital, but staff denied his request.

Then, when he threw up his dinner that night, staff contacted Timothy’s parents and made arrangements so he could fly home alone on June 29, which would include making a trip to a GP to secure a fit-to-travel certificate on June 28.

But, after walking into the hallway to get some air, Timothy was found unresponsive with blood trickling from his nose.

He was hospitalised but died on June 28, with an autopsy revealing he had a “highly acute” infection in his stomach and lungs, and had suffered a heart attack.

Barbara and Dale said they weren’t made aware of the severity of Timothy’s illness, and are calling for change to staffing for overseas school trips.

His mother acknowledged that the two teachers were trained in first aid, but said a school nurse would have had a better understanding of his illness.

"They would have picked up on the signs quicker and we wouldn't be here today," she said.

“He wasn’t homesick,” she continued, adding that having more adults accompany students would have helped save her son.

"When he said he was sick and said something wasn't right, that was the truth.

"No one was being his advocate, we think it's important to have more adults to student ratios.”

In his findings on Timothy’s death, Coroner Simon McGregor called on the Department of Education and Training to increase the staff to student ratios on these trips, and recommended that organisers should ensure there were enough resources available if someone did fall ill.

"With the benefit of hindsight, staff made the wrong judgement call that Tim's complaints were not sufficiently serious," McGregor commented.

Since then, the department said a group the size that Tim was in now requires three adults, not two.

The Fehrings continue to mourn their son, with Dale saying it has been a “hard three years”.

“Children shouldn’t die, this is so tragic,” he said.

"It hits you hard and it has been a hard three years. We have tried to cope."

Images: Nine

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