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Boatie fears he may lose foot after boat ramp injury, flesh-eating bacteria

Author
Laura Smith,
Publish Date
Tue, 30 Jan 2024, 7:54am
A Rotorua man has been fighting an infection in his foot after stepping on a piece of metal at a public boat ramp. Photos / Andrew Warner, supplied
A Rotorua man has been fighting an infection in his foot after stepping on a piece of metal at a public boat ramp. Photos / Andrew Warner, supplied

Boatie fears he may lose foot after boat ramp injury, flesh-eating bacteria

Author
Laura Smith,
Publish Date
Tue, 30 Jan 2024, 7:54am

LDR_STRAP

Warning: Graphic images 

A boatie fears he could lose his foot to infection after stepping on corroded metal at a council-maintained boat ramp in Rotorua. 

After four surgeries on the 4cm-deep wound, Kingsley Ridings says the potential worst-case outcome for him could be amputation. 

The council says it has taken action to address risks at the boat ramp, but warns more loose metal may wash ashore. It wished him a “swift and complete recovery”. 

Ridings told Local Democracy Reporting he was with friends at Hannah’s Bay Reserve on Friday, January 12, readying his boat to go fishing on Lake Rotorua. 

He said as he was guiding the boat into the water, he stepped on a jagged piece of metal ― part of the anti-slip grid and “covered in lake slime”. 

It went 4cm into the side of his right heel — almost all the way through — and snapped off, he said. 

Ridings’ friends helped him remove the rusted and crumbling spike from his foot. 

“At the time I didn’t think anything of it.” 

The piece of metal Kingsley Ridings stood on that became embedded in his foot.The piece of metal Kingsley Ridings stood on that became embedded in his foot. 

Four surgeries 

The fishing trip was cancelled and Ridings said he went to a medical centre for blood tests and to have the wound cleaned and bandaged. 

By Saturday, his foot was throbbing with pain so he went to Accident and Emergency. 

He said he left with the wound inspected and re-dressed, but by Sunday it had worsened and he was admitted to Rotorua Hospital’s orthopaedic ward. The wound was infected. 

The first surgery was the next day followed by a second on Wednesday, he said. He was released on Saturday, but on Monday felt unwell again and was readmitted. His third surgery was on Tuesday and his second on Thursday last week. 

“It’s proved difficult to clean, and unfortunately very hard to keep clean.” 

He said doctors told him they found some of the bacteria “had been dissolving the flesh”. 

Ridings gave “hats off” to the pathology lab, which turned the results quickly and helped the doctors treat the infection. 

The surgeries focused on removing any traces of metal or anything that could cause infection, and cleaning the wound of dead skin and flesh. 

“The worst-case scenario is that they chop it off,” he said, looking at his foot. The best case was only a small amount of flesh and skin needed grafting and the infection was under control. 

Kingsley Ridings' right foot was injured and became infected after he stepped on a rusted piece of metal at a Rotorua boat ramp. A pre-surgery wash has been applied to his foot.Kingsley Ridings' right foot was injured and became infected after he stepped on a rusted piece of metal at a Rotorua boat ramp. A pre-surgery wash has been applied to his foot. 

He told Local Democracy Reporting he rang Rotorua Lakes Council the day he was injured, and said he told them it was important someone cleared the metal that was “poking upright”. 

“Anyone, or any kid, could go and do exactly what I did,” he feared. 

He said he also spoke to Bay of Plenty Regional Council, requesting it “hurry along” the Lakes council. 

He understood someone went to remove the metal that day. 

Ridings said he contacted the Lakes council again via its website the day after being injured, asking who was responsible and suggesting its maintenance schedules needed looking at. 

In his opinion, the issue was the steelwork on the ramp had been “there for so long it has corroded over the years to next to nothing”. 

In his view: “It brings up the question of accountability.” 

Local Democracy Reporting found a piece of corroded, loose metal in the sand next to the Hannah's Bay boat ramp. Photo / Andrew WarnerLocal Democracy Reporting found a piece of corroded, loose metal in the sand next to the Hannah's Bay boat ramp. Photo / Andrew Warner 

Local Democracy Reporting visited the boat ramp on Thursday last week. A temporary Rotorua Lakes Council sign warning the ramp was slippery was face down on the ramp. 

Pieces of rusted metal could be seen in the sand, one hand-width section half-buried and sticking upright. Local Democracy Reporting put these in the bin. 

On Thursday afternoon, Local Democracy Reporting approached the Lakes council for a response to Ridings’ concerns and regarding the metal on the beach and ramp seen that day. 

Ridings said a council staff member called on Friday and they discussed the situation. He said the council had apologised, but it did not make for the pain and anguish he had experienced. 

Rotorua Lakes Council responds 

The council provided a statement from group manager infrastructure and environmental solutions Stavros Michael on Friday. 

“We express our sincere concern for Mr Ridings’ injuries and extend our heartfelt wishes for a swift and complete recovery.” 

Michael said the council contacted Ridings on Friday to discuss measures taken by it and its contractor, Infracore, after Ridings reported the “unfortunate incident”. 

These included: 

  • Replaced warning signs about the slippery ramp on January 26; 
  • Infracore “swiftly closed the boat ramp” upon learning of Ridings’ injuries; 
  • Infracore further attended on Friday; 
  • Water-blasted the wooden ramp; 
  • Removed the “entire grating”, with plans to replace it with an aluminium grating; 
  • Used a metal detector to search for remaining debris; 
  • Installed a new sign warning loose metal may wash ashore (believed to be why more metal was found on Thursday); 
  • Recognised the need to “enhance inspection procedures”, especially for ramps below the waterline. 

Metal grating on the Hannah’s Bay boat ramp on Thursday. Photo / Andrew WarnerMetal grating on the Hannah’s Bay boat ramp on Thursday. Photo / Andrew Warner 

He said the Hannah’s Bay boat ramp was renewed in 2013, but “the longevity of the steel grating fell short of expectations”. 

He said there were no specific guidelines or regulations for boat ramps. The council did regular maintenance checks, six-month condition inspections and routine accessibility assessments. 

A council spokesman said in Ridings’ call with its call centre on January 12, he was told the maintenance team would be informed and would contact him if needed, and he was transferred to the regional council because it was responsible for lakes, in case he wanted to report the incident. 

“We appreciate Mr Ridings’ diligence in bringing these matters to our attention and are committed to addressing them comprehensively.” 

Laura Smith is a Local Democracy Reporting journalist based at the Rotorua Daily Post. She previously reported general news for the Otago Daily Times and Southland Express, and has been a journalist for four years. 

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air. 

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