Poor mobile reception slows accident response

January 23, 2018

Andrew Freshwater is still recovering from an on-farm accident in which both legs were broken, but he was unable to phone for help.

Tocumwal cattle and sheep farmer Andrew Freshwater says a lack of reliable mobile phone coverage on his farm could have cost him his life.

With two broken legs and other injuries following an on-farm accident on January 4, Mr Freshwater said he was left stranded and in pain when he did not have enough service coverage to even call 000.

He was standing on top of a silage feed-out wagon at his farm on Taylors Rd when springs holding barrels of hay gave way and pushed him off. He fell almost 4m to the ground.

It was an hour before he was discovered by his wife, who rushed him to Tocumwal Hospital.

He was then transferred to Shepparton and later a Melbourne hospital where he was treated for the injuries and dehydration.

Mr Freshwater, who is still in Melbourne, said his injuries required surgery and he would now have rehabilitation to ‘‘learn how to walk again’’.

He does not expect to be able to return home for another two months.

Mr Freshwater said while the injuries were severe, the biggest ‘pain’ was trying to flag the issue with his service provider, Telstra.

‘‘My phone only had one bar of 4G service (when I fell), which means nothing,’’ he said.

‘‘You should be able to have access to basic emergency services like triple zero.

‘‘I pay $150 for my plan and 80 gigabytes of data, and we just burn right through it because of our location.

‘‘I’m sick and tired of these rubbish political responses I’ve received from Telstra talking about how they’re rolling out the NBN; it’s all nonsense.

‘‘I just want a straight answer from Telstra admitting its service is crap.

‘‘The phone towers in Tocumwal are meant to have a range of 35km, but we live 12km from Tocumwal and have awful service.’’

Mr Freshwater said he had been corresponding with Telstra through private messages on Facebook since his accident, but was yet to receive a satisfactory response to his concerns.

Telstra’s western and northern Victoria regional manager Steve Tinker said all data available to the company indicated the Tocumwal service was satisfactory.

Farmer Maryanne Ryan also lives on Taylors Rd and said in the 14 years she has lived there with her husband Mark and their family, they had never had reliable reception, even after installing signal boosters.

‘‘It’s a really bad area. It’s so hit and miss,’’ she said.

‘‘If something goes wrong you really need to be able to call for help.’’

—James Bennett

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