Private school and tour operator charged over “preventable” student death

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
16-year-old Lachlan Cook was a student at Melbourne's Kilvington Grammar School on an overseas trip with World Challenge Expeditions when he fell ill and later died.

Victorian independent school and a travel company have been charged over the death of a diabetic teenager on an overseas school trip nearly five years ago.

16-year-old Lachlan Cook was a student at Kilvington Grammar in Melbourne when he became ill while on a bus to the central Vietnam city of Hue on September 26, 2019, as part of a World Challenge trip with classmates and two teachers.

His symptoms included vomiting and slurred speech and the boy was given Panadol, water and anti-nausea medication but his condition deteriorated, and he went into cardiac arrest.

He was later flown to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and declared brain dead.

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Tragic death could have been avoided

At an inquest last year, Coroner Audrey Jamieson ruled the teenager’s death “tragic and preventable”.

In a statement issued yesterday, WorkSafe Victoria said Kilvington Grammar and World Challenge have been charged over the incident.

“WorkSafe alleges the school failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to reduce the risk of illness or death to diabetic students on school trips,” it said in a statement.

“World Challenge Expeditions faces three charges under section 23(1) of the OHS Act for failing to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks.

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“WorkSafe alleges the tour company failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to reduce the risk of illness or death to participating students, including those with diabetes.”

Teachers and tour leader not adequately trained

Ms Jamieson found two Kilvington teachers on the trip, along with the World Challenge leader, were not trained to support students with diabetes.

“There is clear and cogent evidence that the failures and shortcomings of World Challenge Expeditions and Kilvington Grammar School contributed to (Lachlan’s) death,” she said.

The WorkSafe matter is listed for a filing hearing at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on April 30.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]