A teenager killed by a box jellyfish three days shy of his 18th birthday has been remembered as talented boy who loved sport and the outdoors.
Tommy Johnson, 17, was swimming with family at Patterson’s Point on Cape York near Bamaga in Far North Queensland last Friday when he was stung by the stinger, which is regarded as the world’s most venomous marine animal.
He was airlifted to Townsville Hospital in critical condition, and died there surrounded by friends and family on Monday.
Tommy’s parents and four younger siblings are devastated, along with his uncle Iveno Elia who treated the ‘very kind-hearted, handsome, smart and intelligent’ teen as his own.
Tommy Johnson (pictured) was due to celebrate his 18th birthday on Thursday
‘He was also a great role model to my children and he was that type of nephew that never said no or never disappointed us with anything, especially when it came to cultural hunting land and sea,’ he told the Courier Mail.
‘He was a humble boy, he was so close to us that I have loved him like my own.’
Friend Tomaseena Jawai remembered Tommy as a loving and humble boy who loved hunting, fishing, diving and horse riding.
‘He was always one to try everything,’ she wrote on a GoFundMe page.
‘He was so talented, he was selected countless times for rep sides for AFL and Rugby League all through the Cairns, Townsville and NPA Region, that spoke of his high performance on and off the field.’
‘He was a loving and a caring big brother, who will now be truly missed by his family, and all of his friends.’
Almost $4,000 has already been raised to go towards the costs of Tommy’s funeral and relieving the financial burden on his family.
‘As a family we would appreciate any contribution, and we just want to say thank you in advance for all the love and support we are receiving,’ Ms Jawai added.
The death have prompted authorities to warm swimmers to be on high alert for marine s
Tommy’s tragic death comes 14 years after the last box jellyfish in Australia at nearby Umagico Beach when a seven-year-old girl was fatally stung.
Almost 80 deaths caused by box jellyfish have been recorded in Australian waters since the 1880s.
Tommy’s death has prompted local council and health authorities to issue a warning to locals and tourists to stay out of the water during the stinger season – which runs from October to May.
‘Please advise your children not to go swimming at this time of the season,’ Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council states on its website.
‘Parents, we cannot stress enough on how important it is to keep your children away from the water.
‘There have been reports of children swimming down at the Seisia Wharf, and council would like to remind the community that it is still stinger season.’
Tommy was swimming with family at Patterson’s Point (pictured) on Cape York near Bamaga in Far North Queensland when the tragedy unfolded
Swimmers can avoid being stung by wearing stinger protective clothing such a wetsuit or lycra suit or staying out of the water if they had no protective clothing.
‘If you don’t have a protective suit and you know there could be stingers or jellyfish in the water, just don’t go in,’ Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Northern Director of Medical Services Dr Marlow Coates said.
‘The recent incident at Bamaga is a timely warning to take precautions when swimming in the sea in any northern waters.
‘It’s also important that people are familiar with resuscitation methods – early resuscitation after major stings from box jellies has saved lives in the past few years.’
The tragedy has rocked the close-knit community.
‘It’s a tragic, tragic accident,’ former local mayor Eddie Newman told the ABC.
‘There are plenty of signs around warning about stingers and the local knowledge is that we know they come out of the rivers onto the coast.
‘But to lose someone, especially a young fella is tragic.’
Tommy died after being stung by a box jellyfish while swimming in Far North Queensland
The box jellyfish is a deadly threat to swimmers off the Queensland coast north of Gladstone.
Box jellyfish are cube shaped with tentacles that can grow to three metres. A sting from one can kill a swimmer before they reach the shore.
They can also swim without having to rely on currents, unlike other jellyfish, and have clusters of eyes on each side.
There are about 50 species of box jellyfish, but only a few have venom that can kill humans.
Those species of jellyfish – also known as sea wasps – are considered one of the deadliest marine creatures in the world.
Police will now prepare a report on Tommy’s death for the coroner.
Tommy was airlifted to Townsville Hospital (pictured) where he died three days later
The Box Jellyfish
The box jellyfish is distinguished by its cube-shaped appearance and extremely potent venom
- The cube-shaped jellyfish is nearly invisible underwater
- Produces extremely potent venom considered to be among the most deadly in the world, containing toxins that attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells and can cause cardiac arrest in humans
- Human victims have been known to go into shock and drown or die of heart failure before even reaching shore
- Found in the temperate coastal waters off Northern Australia and throughout the Indo-Pacific
- Tentacles can reach up to 3m in length
- Unlike most jellyfish they have developed the ability to move rather than just drift
- The box jellyfish are Carnivores and have 24 eyes and four brains
Source: National Geographic