The Shire of Esperance have offered a cash reward for further information, after seven needles were found in a local playground and left two children injured.
Esperance man Daniel Edgar said his child, Luke, and a friend visited Dixon Park in Castletown on Saturday, February 3, when the 8-year-old was pricked by a needle in the playground’s sand pit.
Shire officers and rangers attended the scene and conducted an initial search at 7pm that evening, recovering seven used and unused needles from the sand pit.
The father of three posted a warning to residents on the ‘Esperance Community Page’ on Facebook, including photos of five of the needles recovered.
Despite the incident, Mr Edgar said his son Luke was in ‘high spirits’.
“He wasn’t happy with all of the needles he had to have today but he’s doing OK,” he said.
“He got the rest of the day off school.”
Mr Edgar said his son returned from the park, regularly frequented by his sons, and said he had found a ‘drug needle’.
“Immediately my wife and I went to check it out and found little plastic bags scattered everywhere,” he said.
“I had a closer look at one of the bags and inside was what looked like dog faeces and a needle or two.
“I called the Police and collected all of the needles up into a little bucket and that’s when my son confessed to having been pricked by one and said his little friend had too.”
Immediately rushing the child to hospital, Mr Edgar said Luke endured a ‘barrage’ of blood tests.
“I was shocked, you know, I just couldn’t believe that something like this had happened,” he said.
“My initial reaction was shock but then I was just angry that someone would do this, it was a whole range of emotions.
“Then there was the anxiety part of it, what it could possibly be and whether he had contracted anything.
“It’s hard to fathom how a person could do that.”
Mr Edgar said Luke would continue to be tested for several months following the incident.
Shire of Esperance chief executive officer Matthew Scott said the Shire were seeking information on who was responsible, offering a $500 cash ‘reward for justice’.
“There is a policy in place in regards to the Shire offering rewards for more information leading to convictions for vandalism and graffiti and, certainly in this sort of case, I am more than prepared to offer a reward,” he said.
“We want some sort of information to get this situation sorted out fairly quickly.
“This is disgusting and this sort of thing just cannot be tolerated - pure and simple.”
Mr Scott said shire officers would now clean the play equipment with a high pressure hose before replacing the existing sand, a task expected to cost between $5-7,000 but that did not compare to the ‘stress and anxiety’ for the two families involved.
With needle disposal units located in public toilet facilities across the town, Mr Scott said he could not see ‘any excuse’ for the incident.
“Imagine your kids playing here, you don’t expect to go to a park and see this sort of thing,” he said.
“All of our parks are inspected on a weekly basis and we’re very proud of our public open spaces.”
Shire president Victoria Brown echoed Mr Scott’s sentiments, saying she had never witnessed ‘anything like this’.
“To think that this family were doing what most families do on a Saturday afternoon and this has happened,” she said.
Mr Scott said his thoughts and prayers were with both families as they await the results.
The incident has sparked online debate around current Needle and Syringe Programs, which see hospitals issue sterile equipment to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.
Although not the fault of the hospital, Mr Edgar said the responsibility of disposing of the dangerous goods was being left in the ‘hands of drug addicts’.
“We seem to be doing a really good job at protecting the needle users from the risk of infections but no effort is being made to protect the people who may come in contact with these needles,” he said.
“You can put as many receptacles around as you want but, at the end of the day, the responsibility is still with the user and they’re not going to be responsible.
“Rather than handing out these needles or having a machine there where they can gain as many as they want, perhaps there needs to be an exchange.
“There needs to be another measure in place to safeguard our families.”
Remediation works began again early Monday, February 5, with the soft fall sand being raked and no further needles found.
The equipment will receive a high pressure clean on Tuesday, with work set to continue on Wednesday, February 5, and new sand to be installed.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Esperance Police Station on (08) 9079 8999.