Port Hedland mother rescued from Karijini’s Knox Gorge after bite from deadly brown snake

When Megan Brouwer went hiking with her husband and five-year-old son in Karijini National Park she was concerned about spraining her ankle — instead she was bitten by a deadly snake. 

The family had begun their return hike in Karijini’s picturesque Knox Gorge when Ms Brouwer’s husband yelled “snake”.

“I just knew in the way that he yelled it that it was either on me or very close to me,” she said.

“So I jumped around frantically for a moment then saw it in the corner of my eye, slithering away.

A woman wearing a khaki green dress smiles closed mouth at the camera, with green plants behind her
Megan Brouwer was bitten by a venomous gwarder snake while hiking in Karijini National Park.(ABC Rural: Michelle Stanley )

The gwardar, or western brown snake, is understood to be the most venomous snake native to Australia. 

Off-duty doctor among many saviours

Ms Brouwer said she, her husband, and an off-duty doctor who was walking in the gorge at the time last Sunday, checked her legs and found fresh blood and a puncture wound.

“[The off-duty doctor] had a pressure bandage and applied that for me. She also had a satellite phone in hand … but unfortunately it wasn’t connecting, we were so far in the gorge.

“So she then ran to the top of the gorge — which took her about an hour or so.”

It took Karijini rangers, local police, State Emergency Service, and St John Ambulance volunteers, as well as passers-by helping the rescue effort seven hours to bring Ms Brouwer and her family to safety at the nearest hospital in Tom Price.

She was then flown by Royal Flying Doctor Service to Port Hedland. 

A team of people carrying a woman on a stretcher up a rocky, steep hill.
Emergency services faced tough terrain to rescue a woman after she was bitten by a brown snake in Karijini National Park.(Supplied: DFES)

Wasps, loose rocks increase difficulty

“It was like something I’d never experienced before,” she said.

Knox Gorge is a two-kilometre class-5 hike, and Ms Brouwer said it was “pretty hairy” in parts.

“The path itself got quite narrow at the edge of the cliff, and manoeuvring a stretcher around trees and up the cliff face was pretty scary for me,” she said. 

“There were also some unexpected things like wasps nests and lots of loose rock so footing was really, really important.”

‘Thankful to the snake’

Fortunately for Megan Brouwer and her family, she had received a “dry bite” so was not envenomated by the attack.

“I’ve since learned that if he had’ve got me a second time maybe that would’ve been a poisonous bite.

“But I’m all good. I know a lot more about snakes and I know how best to be prepared when you’re hiking in very remote parts.”

Emergency services crew carry a woman on a stretcher through a mossy lake in a gorge.
Megan was bitten by a brown snake, one of the deadliest in Australia.(Supplied: DFES)

First aid kit ‘a must’

Ms Brouwer recommends hikers always have a first-aid kit on hand in their hiking pack, including a pressure bandage for snake bites, and said they should keep their first-aid training up to date.

She said was incredibly grateful to emergency service volunteers, as well as to members of the public who helped by supplying bandages and trying to keep Ms Brouwer calm. 

A group of people help carry a woman in a stretcher up a steep, rocky hill.
Megan’s son says he’s proud of his mum’s adventure.(Supplied: DFES)

The Brouwer family are hoping to return to Karijini in the future, but Megan Brouwer said she was not sure if she would be able to return to the scene of the snake bite.

Leave a Comment