$20k nightmare after horror shark attack
WARNING: Graphic images.
A MAN who received gruesome injuries after being bitten by a shark while volunteering has been forced to start a GoFundMe page to repay his debts.
Mathew Vickers was researching the recovery rate of coral on the Great Barrier Reef on a volunteering trip with James Cook University (JCU) when the incident occurred earlier this year.
The injuries Mr Vickers sustained in the attack, which happened three weeks into the trip, saw the tendons of his dominant left hand severed, resulting in more than 90 stitches, two surgeries and "12 weeks of still-ongoing physical therapy and counselling".
But thanks to a technical loophole, Mr Vickers was ruled to be ineligible for compensation by WorkCover and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland as he was found to be a volunteer and not a worker when the attack took place.
Last week, Mr Vickers launched a GoFundMe page in a bid to cover his ongoing medical bills and to repay accumulated debts, which he estimated was now over $20,000.
That original $20,000 goal was smashed within three days, with more than $30,000 pledged so far.
On the page, Mr Vickers explained he had been struggling financially since the attack, and slammed the university's "harsh" response to his situation.
"I am not covered by usual worker's protections, with the upshot that I have footed the costs of and trips to specialists, painkillers, and all the various therapies," he said.
"I have asked the university to help cover my medical bills, my trips to specialists, and my cost of living as I recover.
"The university has responded harshly ... and the university's insurer has responded by paying me $555.44, which falls short of the monetary cost so far."
He said he had been forced to rely on family and friends to get by for months.
"I am getting back to work, but it is a long climb back out of this hole, and I now have large debts to pay," Mr Vickers continued.
"The heavy lifting so far has been done by a few friends and family who lent me the extra money I have needed until now to pay rent, eat, continue physical and mental therapy.
"But it is too few lifting too much, and so I am asking my social network to help catch my fall."
But in a statement provided to news.com.au, a James Cook University spokesman said the university was simply following WorkCover's recommendations, and that Mr Vickers had been injured while taking part in an activity which had not been authorised by JCU.
"Mathew Vickers was engaged as a volunteer at the time of the incident. WorkCover assessed the incident and found Mathew Vickers wasn't an employee of the JCU and therefore wasn't entitled to WorkCover," the statement said.
"Workplace Health and Safety Queensland were also notified of the incident, made inquiries, and found no further action was required.
"At the time of the incident, some of the field trip participants were taking part in snorkelling, which was not part of the planned field trip."
The spokesman said the university had offered Mr Vickers non-financial support.
"Despite the fact that it was not a JCU-authorised activity, and despite the fact that he was a volunteer at the time, JCU has provided support to Mr Vickers," he said.
"In the immediate aftermath of the incident, a JCU rehabilitation co-ordinator contacted Mathew Vickers to offer support and assistance, including trauma counselling, as the university was concerned about his health and wellbeing.
"JCU also provided assistance with filing a claim through the university's insurer, and the university continues to offer Mathew Vickers the option of trauma counselling."
A WorkCover Queensland spokesman said the body would not comment on the matter based on "claimant privacy and confidentiality reasons".