Aboriginal boy, 13, dies after bin he was sleeping in emptied into garbage truck in South Australia

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: James Ross/AAP</span>
Photograph: James Ross/AAP

The South Australian town of Port Lincoln is reeling from the tragic death of a 13-year-old Aboriginal boy, who was sleeping in an industrial bin that was emptied into a garbage truck early Tuesday morning.

Police said the boy along with two others, aged 11 and 12, were sleeping in the industrial bin when it was emptied about 5.20am.

“One boy managed to jump out but sadly the 13-year-old sustained serious injuries and died at the scene,” a SA police statement said. “The third boy was not injured.

“It is believed the truck driver was unaware the boys were in the bin at the time and is extremely shaken by the incident.”

Police said the boy’s death would be referred to the coroner and was also being investigated by SafeWork SA.

Local police superintendent Paul Bahr said it was a “really terrible event”.

“By the time the truck driver was alerted that there were people in the bin, it was at that point of being too late to stop the skip tipping,” he said.

Bahr reporters at a press conference in Port Lincoln at midday that one of the boys was able to jump clear of the skip and one was lifted but managed to avoid injuries.

The third boy “suffered significant trauma” and was not able to be revived by first responders, Bahr said. He said the child’s death was a “very difficult” for first responders and “tragic for all of the Port Lincoln community”.

Bahr said police had spoken to both of the surviving boys, who were “traumatised by what’s occurred [so] it is going to take time to get a detailed story from them”.

“I think the background as to how they ended up in this industrial bin and sleeping in this bin is something that is really going to take some time to understand,” he said.

He said police were not aware of any previous reports of people in Port Lincoln sleeping rough in bins, or even many reports of children sleeping rough.

“I have asked my staff this this morning – we are not aware of any reports of any kids sleeping in bins in Port Lincoln,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve become aware of it.

“Port Lincoln has an issue with homelessness like any community and from time to time we do get rough sleepers. I’m not aware of children sleeping rough. We do have some very good support services here that tend to act very quickly if we do get reports of it.”

The bin was located in the carpark of the local Repco store, which backs on to the McDonalds drive-through.

Safework SA inspectors attended the site on Tuesday morning and were “making inquiries into the incident”.

“SafeWork SA offers condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at this distressing and sad time,” a statement said.

All three of the boys were from Port Lincoln. The town is on the tip of the Eyre Peninsula, about a seven-hour drive from Adelaide.

Port Lincoln mayor, Brad Flaherty, said it was an “unfortunate accident” and would be “a very, very hard thing for the families and the community to deal with”.

“This is a terrible thing for a small community like ours, particularly an accidental death,” he told Guardian Australia.

“It’s something that we’ve got to come to terms with over the next couple of weeks. But, I think one of the things that we have to do in the community is make sure that we’re supporting the families. We just be there for them.”

Flaherty said he did not know yet if, or why, the boys were sleeping rough.

The Aboriginal Family Support Services declined to comment.