A Newcastle teenager is clinging to life in a Bali hospital after being hurled down a sewerage drain from a motor scooter.
The incident has shed light on the high number of Australian tourists ending up in hospitals in Indonesia – the second-most dangerous place for travellers.
Like many teenagers fresh out of high school, Lawson Rankin, 18, was on an end-of-year schoolies trip with his friends to celebrate the end of Year 12 exams.
He was riding a motor scooter behind two friends on Saturday night (local time), November 30, when a local motorcycle rider zoomed past and snatched his friend’s phone as he was reading directions from the passenger seat.
Mr Rankin sped off in pursuit of the thief but was thrown from his motor scooter and down into a deep sewerage drain, where his friends discovered him lying face down in the water, unconscious and with serious head injuries.
The boys lifted him out of the drain and performed CPR to resuscitate him while locals called an ambulance.
Mr Rankin was rushed to hospital, where he remains unconscious but in a stable condition. The long-term impacts of the brain haemorrhage he suffered are not yet known.
The Rankin family has praised the actions of his friends.
“We are eternally grateful for the heroic actions of these young men,” they said in a statement.
“This is the most devastating thing a parent can go through, to see our beautiful son in this state in a foreign country is extremely horrific.
“We need to bring him home.”
But his long journey of recovery comes with another challenge: his travel insurance company isn’t paying a cent because he didn’t have a motor bike licence at the time.
To legally ride a scooter in Bali, you must carry a motor bike licence in Australia.
His devastated family now has to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars for international hospital bills and an expensive Medivac flight home.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help them cover the costs.
Their boy’s tragic accident has shone a spotlight on the dangerous destinations landing hundreds of Australians in hospital every year.
More than 1500 Australians were hospitalised overseas between 2018-19, shows data from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
That figure is up four per cent from five years ago.
Of the top five countries where injury and illness came to travelling Australians this year, three were in South-East Asia: Thailand (178 hospital cases), Indonesia (141) and Vietnam (68).
In Indonesia, more than 70 per cent of road deaths involve a motor bike or motor scooter, according to data from the World Health Organisation.
One reason for such high rates of hospitalisations in South-East Asia is the high number of Australian tourists flocking to those countries compared with others. More than 1.3 million travel to Indonesia every year, nearly half a million travel to Thailand and more than 380,000 to Vietnam.
Another is the increasing number of older Australians travelling to or retiring in those countries.
This trend is also reflected by the high number of hospitalisations recorded in New Caledonia, where cruises in the Pacific are popular among older people vulnerable to illness or accident.
Sadly, some of those Australians never made it home.
DFAT data shows 1695 Australians died overseas in the 12-month period between 2018-19. More than 100 lost their lives in Indonesia.