Coast Guard volunteer sues after horror dead body ordeal

PULLING a dead body from the water has resulted in permanent physical and psychological injuries, a Yeppoon man has claimed.

Kevin Michael Penny is now suing the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association Incorporated and the State of Queensland for more than $750,000 to cover medical expenses and compensate for loss of work.

Mr Penny had been a member of the Yeppoon Flotilla for about five years when he was rostered on with several other members in January 2015.

During one shift, the Coast Guard were called to help Queensland Police Service officers at a pontoon in the marina.

Documents filed in the Supreme Court at Rockhampton state the crew, including Mr Penny, took the vessel to the northern end of the marina, where they could see two police officers waiting and pointing at a body, floating face down in the water.

Mr Penny, wearing a uniform of "medium length shorts", a polo shirt and closed-in shoes, used a hook to move the body alongside an access hatch at the side of the vessel.

The documents state Mr Penny was then asked to help lift the body from the water and into the vessel.

However, as Mr Penny and another person pulled the body onto the boat, "fluid was expelled from the body's mouth and nose covering the plaintiff's arms and legs".

The documents state shortly after, one of the police officers told Mr Penny they had just received information the deceased person may have been infected with hepatitis C.

Mr Penny had an open cut on his leg, which had not been covered by his shorts, and believed he could have contracted the illness when this bodily fluid came into contact with his legs.

Although he did not contract hepatitis C, the documents state Mr Penny suffered a soft tissue shoulder injury, post traumatic stress disorder and alcohol abuse disorder.

Following the incident, Mr Penny suffered from "pain, discomfort and restricted movement" in his right shoulder for some months.

Treatment included physiotherapy and medication.

The documents state Mr Penny also developed "symptoms of high anxiety" after the incident, which worsened.

On the evening of the incident, he went to the hospital for treatment.

Mr Penny "began to experience recurrent nightmares and flashbacks of the incident".

"His ability to concentrate became substantially impaired and he was easily distracted," the documents state.

"He became depressed and reclusive and began abusing alcohol, particularly to help himself get back to sleep when woken by nightmares."

The documents state Mr Penny, now 53, required "a significant amount of treatment and medication" to help ease these symptoms, but continues to be depressed and highly anxious.

Prior to the incident, Mr Penny was a carpenter and handyman, but the documents state he has been unable to continue the business and will likely not be able to return to work.

Mr Penny is suing for over $750,000 including general damages ($41,420), past economic loss ($124,740) and future economic loss ($405,000).

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