Cape Town - Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schafer on Sunday expressed condolences to the family of a Cape Town schoolgirl who died suddenly while on a school tour in Vietnam and provided an insight into the incident.
"We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Shannen Rustin, a Grade 11 learner from Westerford High School. My deepest condolences go to the Rustin family, friends, and Westerford community," she said.
"The tragic passing of Shannen while on a school tour in Vietnam has been inaccurately reported by some media and although we don’t know the actual cause of death at this stage it is important that I set the record straight," Schafer said.
A group of 32 Grade 11 pupils from Westerford High School were currently on an educational history tour of Southeast Asia, visiting Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. The tour group was accompanied by two teachers and one parent from Westerford High School and was scheduled to take place from December 3 to 19.
Gordon Brookbanks, the tour leader, had provided a summary of events. On the morning of December 8, at about 8.30am, the tour group left on a cycle ride from near their hotel in Hoi An in Vietnam, with the weather being overcast and mild. Some pupils reportedly had difficulty riding a bicycle and travelled on the back of scooters instead.
"It is reported that after around 30 minutes of cycling Shannen Rustin indicated to the local tour operator that she was feeling tired cycling. Shannen stopped cycling and travelled on the back of a scooter with the tour operator, who reported that Shannen was 'chatting and laughing' with him," Schafer said.
At about 9.10am the group reportedly stopped at the approach to a bridge crossing a river for a rest and opportunity to take photos.
"Mr Brookbanks was reportedly called and informed that Shannen had collapsed. Mr Brookbanks instructed the tour operator to take them to the nearest hospital which was six minutes away. While travelling to the hospital, Mr Brookbanks attempted mouth to mouth resuscitation.
"Emergency staff at the hospital reportedly tried in vain to resuscitate Shannen for over an hour. Shannen’s family were immediately informed when Shannen collapsed and of her subsequent passing. Shannen’s family have travelled to Vietnam and will be supported by Westerford staff.
"This is an incredibly difficult time for the Rustin family and I appeal to the media to report on the facts accurately and sensitively. The tour group has decided to continue with the tour in loving memory of their friend and classmate Shannen Rustin. The school has sent a psychologist to join the group to assist with counselling. My thoughts and prayers remain with all involved, and especially with the Rustin family," Schafer said.