Vandalism at toilets coould have been fatal

A RECENT senseless and thoughtless act of vandalism could easily have had a fatal outcome for an elderly Gladstone man with respiratory problems after he was stranded in a public toilet.

Neil O'Neill, 75, was on his way to collect the Sunday papers from a CBD newsagent about 11am on a Sunday morning when he made a comfort stop at the city's Entertainment Centre public toilets.

After entering an inward opening door Mr O'Neill soon discovered the handle to allow the door to be opened from the inside was missing.

As the door slammed shut behind him he realised he was trapped inside the toilet with no escape route.

Mr O'Neill said shouting for help met with no response and eventually he managed to escape with the aid of a waste paper bucket wire handle manoeuvred under the door. A frail but furious Mr O'Neill said yesterday the ordeal left him 'absolutely buggered'.

'Someone must know who did this,' he fumed.

The stress of the incident has so affected the well-known local philanthropist that a visit to his pharmacist for medication the next day ended with him being whisked away to his doctor with elevated blood pressure and rapid heart rate.

Gladstone City Council environmental health manager Ron Doherty said Mr O'Neill's close call had alerted the council to concerning design problems with its public toilet doors.

The council's emergency after hours service was contacted by Mr O'Neill after the incident and temporary repairs made shortly after.

Mr Doherty said even more concerning was that in a short period on Monday as the council's maintenance crew made a return trip to the depot for material to repair the problem someone attacked the door again, loosening screws.

He said he was concerned that Mr O'Neill been placed in a situation which could easily have had serious consequences.

Gladstone City Councillor Chris Trevor, who inspected the the scene with Mr Doherty, said he was alarmed that a potentially fatal situation could have developed from such thoughtless behaviour.

'Perhaps those responsible for such actions could be locked in the toilets for seven days and fed bread and water to make them realise the consequences of their actions,' he said.

'We could have had a fatality there just because some fool has taken the handle off the door.'

He said the incident had at least alerted the council to a serious situation that affected the frail and the elderly.

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