News World Fateful night for young Aussies
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Fateful night for young Aussies

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It’s been described as the deadliest neighbourhood in America – Algiers, New Orleans.

The largely African-American suburb, on the banks of the Mississippi river, is stricken with poverty and crime, with a tally of 21 murders in 2015 making it the USA’s deadliest suburb.

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So what were two mining students from Western Australia doing there in the early hours of a Tuesday morning?

If you believe the New Orleans police they were driven there by a man in a black sedan after inquiring about buying drugs in the more tourist-friendly surrounds of a Bourbon Street bar.

Algiers, on the banks of the Mississippi, is a dangerous place. Photo: Getty
Algiers, on the banks of the Mississippi, is a dangerous place. Photo: Getty

Police believe the men were shot by a third party when it came to light they did not have the money to buy the drugs

“The driver took the two victims toward Algiers and along the way, he told them that it would cost several hundred dollars to purchase drugs,” police said in a statement.

“The victims told the driver they did not have the money available.

“When they arrived at LB Landry Avenue and Shepard Street, the pair said they exited the vehicle and were approached by another unknown male who demanded their money.

“When they told him they didn’t have it, the unknown male shot them both and then jumped in the vehicle with the unknown driver and fled the scene.”

But that claim is inaccurate according to a male family member of one of the boys – who says they merely accepted an invitation to attend a party, according to NineMSN.

Whatever the story, it didn’t have a happy ending for Curtin University students Toben Clements and Jake Rovacsek who were shot in the chest and stomach respectively.

But it could have been much worse, with both recovering in a New Orleans hospital.

Algiers was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. Photo: Getty
Algiers was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. Photo: Getty

Clements, 21, and Rovacsek, 23, were in the US to compete for Curtin University’s School of Mines in the Inter Collegiate Mining Games.

The games were started in 1978, as a way to honour 91 miners killed in the Sunshine Mine disaster in Idaho – and it seems only luck prevented Clements and Rovacsek from joining their ranks.

They may be studying at a tertiary institution, but according to New Orleans crime reporter Ken Daly, their decision to leave the bar and enter the car was “not very wise”.

“New Orleans is a wonderful city and it can be very safe if you’re using your head,” Mr Daly told the ABC.

“But if you’re certainly a tourist from out of town that maybe doesn’t know the right areas to avoid or how to watch yourself on Bourbon Street or things like that, it can be dangerous.

“As you go a little bit deeper [towards Algiers], it gets into a little bit rougher neighbourhoods and the area that they were in, frankly, was one that is very well known for drugs and violent gun activity at times.

“So it really was not the best place for them to be in, and certainly not at four in the morning and it’s unfortunate that they have learned a very harsh lesson at that.”

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