ONE hundred and seven residents were evacuated from Inverloch’s Domain Seahaven Aged Care Facility last Thursday morning as a result of a fire, and a terminally ill resident, suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, died.
Neither the cause of the fire nor the exact reason for the elderly gentleman’s death have been released.
Bass Coast Region Acting Inspector of Police, David Watson, confirmed that a resident had passed away.
“Because of the death it is going to be investigated by the Arson Squad as a matter of course and a coroner’s report will be submitted,” Act Insp Watson said yesterday.
It was an emotional outcome for an otherwise well-coordinated and efficient emergency response to the blaze which started at around 9.15am.
According to Managing Director of the Domain Principal Group, Gary Barnier, while the 107 residents were evacuated initially, 79 were returned to their rooms on the same day with the remaining 31 accommodated at nearby facilities operated by DPG or other providers.
“Twelve residents living in the Dolphin wing are expected to return to the facility within a week but the dementia facility, which accommodated 19 residents is expected to be closed for 3-4 months,” Mr Barnier said.
“The cost of repairs to the facility is still being assessed and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
“Of the people who were evacuated, one who was gravely ill at the time and in palliative care, was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation and passed away.
“Details of the terminally ill resident have not been released in respect to the privacy of the resident and family but our thoughts and condolences are extended to the family at this time.
“On behalf of our staff, residents and their loved ones, I’d like to thank the emergency service workers and broader community members who came to our aid last week. I would also like to recognise our staff members who supported our residents and ensured they received appropriate care.”
Once the alarm was raised, the response was swift.
Residents were evacuated into the open areas on the northern border of the facility in the first instance, while fire fighters got to the seat of the blaze.
According to CFA Operations Officer, Michael Cherry, the fire started in a private room, but is not being treated as suspicious.
“The cause of the fire is still under a combined investigation from the CFA, Energy Safe Victoria and Police Forensic Services,” Mr Cherry said.
“There are a number of things being looked at and still being examined at this present time but I can say it was nothing suspicious.
“From a district point of view, it was an excellent job by the Inverloch, Pound Creek and Wonthaggi fire fighters. All services worked together extremely well for the desired outcome but unfortunately one person is deceased.
“Our Critical Incident Support people came out to talk to and check our people because it was a fairly dramatic fire.”
Seahaven staff and employees from the adjacent Capeview Mitre 10 rushed in to assist with the evacuation of the residents prior to the arrival of emergency services.
The quick thinking and brave efforts of the first people on scene is being praised by emergency services and centre management.
Sprinkler systems at the facility had the flames close to extinguished before the arrival of Inverloch CFA crews, according to Inverloch Fire Brigade Captain, Alan Williamson, but there was still extensive smoke damage.
“We were met immediately by facility staff and our immediate concern was the rescue of two patients.
“(Fireman) Rob Higgins and I conducted the search for those two people successfully and got them out,” Captain Williamson said.
“We had (fireman) Ash McDermott at the door escorting people to safety at the front; the residents were all confused and pretty upset.
“A big thank you needs to go to the Capeview Mitre 10 staff, their efforts were outstanding, when we got there all we could see was Mitre 10 shirts helping people out of the building, it was fantastic.
“They would have saved quite a few lives.”
Capeview Mitre 10 staff member, Alan Hughes, said he and colleagues Ray Riley and Adam Gaspero, were having a break when they noticed smoke and rushed over to help with the evacuation.
“They had already started pulling people out when we got there and instincts took us straight in,” Mr Hughes said.
“I found one gentleman in bed and he was still asleep so I got him out, found a hat for him because it was so hot outside and put him in a wheel chair and took him outside and went back in to make sure everything was clear.
“He was OK, he was coughing a little bit but it was only light smoke there at the time but at the top end of the building, there was thick black smoke like someone was burning tyres.
“It was blurry in there; you could only see three or four foot in front of you at times.”
Mr Hughes’ wife works at another local aged care facility.
“I knew that there wouldn’t be enough nurses over there to help get everyone out,” he said.
“It was just instinct, it’s what any Aussie would do – go straight in and help out and make sure everyone was safe.”
Police blocked the northern end of Cashin Street while emergency service vehicles continued to arrive on scene into the afternoon.
Six people, four residents and two staff, were taken to local hospitals with smoke inhalation and further observations – as confirmed on scene.
Ambulance Victoria’s Group Manager, Eddie Wright, confirmed that Ambulance Victoria moved about 30 residents from Inverloch to other facilities
“We did have to relocate residents, most of them have gone over to facilities on Phillip Island,” Mr Wright said.
“A couple of others had to be relocated later for safety reasons to other facilities owned by the Domain Group because of an issue with the sprinkler and alarm systems at Inverloch.”
To avoid last week’s sweltering conditions, residents were moved into the separate wing of the facility while emergency services and staff tended to their immediate welfare.
Many concerned family members of residents and Seahaven staff waited anxiously at the scene to hear news on their loved ones.