PNG hero in hospital

FRIGHTENING ORDEAL: Matt Scheurich's attacker wanted to marry his  girlfriend.
FRIGHTENING ORDEAL: Matt Scheurich's attacker wanted to marry his girlfriend.

Former Hamilton man Matthew Scheurich is back in hospital fighting an infection left by a horrific arrow attack, his father, Greg Scheurich, told the Waikato Times this morning.

The 28-year-old former Times worker was shot with two arrows while intervening to save his partner, Anais Gerard, a French anthropology student, from a sexual assault near the remote village of Suabi, in North Fly District of Papua New Guinea's Western Province, 11 days ago. One arrow went into his right lung and the other through his ribs, under his liver and through his stomach, stopping short of the aorta.

His life was saved because Ms Gerard, 29, managed to activate a personal locator beacon, and the pair escaped to a village aid post, where they were able to organise an airlift to the port town of Kiunga, a 30-minute flight away.

Matthew's Auckland-based father, Greg, is flying to his son's bedside tomorrow. He said Matthew was a very private person who did not want his plight in the media but Greg Scheurich today told the Times his son was currently back in hospital after possibly getting an infection in his wound and was "in a great deal of pain".

"He's still trying to deal with his own trauma and in a great deal of physical pain and trying to deal with that. He's just very very very lucky to be alive."

Greg Scheurich said he had a "huge amount of respect" for not only his son but for his son's girlfriend who had the presence of mind to trigger their emergency locator beacon.

"She is remarkable."

Immediately after the attack Matthew, who spent much of his life in Hamilton before moving to Melbourne, pulled the arrows from his body, causing significant bleeding. His face was also cut by rocks thrown at him. One wound, above his right eye, was cut through to the bone. The wounded Kiwi owes his life to Australian volunteer doctor Josette Docherty who was surprised to see a deathly pale white man being taken into the operating theatre at Kiunga Hospital.

In a medical report she said: "Matt had remained conscious throughout [the attack] and was in severe pain."

It took four hours of surgery and 1.5 litres of blood to stabilise him. Half a litre was donated by Dr Docherty's partner, Allan Mason. Mr Mason also performed first aid on Ms Gerard, who had human bites, cuts, scratches and bruises. The injured pair had to wait two more days for a transfer to Australia. Matthew was discharged from Cairns Base Hospital on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Australian Doctors International  the aid organisation supporting Dr Docherty and Mr Mason in Papua New Guinea  said the personal locator beacon probably saved Matthew's life.
"The guy was lucky because of his age and because the village [Suabi] had a radio, an aid post and an airstrip, so the plane could get in," she said. Without the locator beacon, he would have bled to death. The spokeswoman said the violent attack was "an extremely unfortunate and rare incident. Generally, we find the people there warm, hospitable and proud to share their culture with foreigners."

Catholic Bishop Gilles Cote, of PNG's Daru-Kiunga diocese, said it appeared the couple's attacker was a tribesman who wanted to marry Ms Gerard but turned aggressive when he was rejected.

When Mr Scheurich stepped in to protect her, he was shot, Mr Cote told the Cairns Post. "The spears narrowly missed the man's vital organs. He lost a lot of blood."

Ms Gerard declined interviews yesterday, saying the pair needed time to recover. Ms Gerard was in PNG doing PhD research on the Febi tribe.
In March, Mr Scheurich blogged: "Out of office: Gone to Papua New Guinea to live in the jungle, be back in 6 months' time or so."

The Dominion Post