When Danuta Witkowicz and her hiking group ventured out east of Mount Gorrie on Sunday 17 September 2023, they never imagined the emergency that would unfold.

The group of nine took off at 9am and as they were nearing the end of their 10-kilometre journey around 2.20pm, Danuta felt severe pain in the back of her right leg.

“I heard the scream of the person following me. I turned around and saw a huge snake rearing up in the air behind me. I hadn’t seen the snake before it bit me and I hadn’t stepped on it either.”

Her fellow hikers jumped into action, commencing first aid and calling triple zero. “They gave me first aid in a very professional way. They had the right bandages and knew how to use them,” Danuta said.

“Their actions not only saved me from serious consequences but also had a very positive impact on my emotional state. I knew I wasn’t alone.”

Within the hour, RAC Rescue was on site providing specialist care and preparing Danuta for transport to Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital.

“I am full of admiration for the entire operation carried out by the helicopter crew. Their professionalism and the way they acted instantly made me feel at ease. I remember being pulled into the helicopter and when I got there [to hospital], I knew I was in the best hands.”

On arrival, Danuta received brown snake antivenom, antibiotics and painkillers; but after 24 hours her leg still wasn’t improving. The decision was made to administer black snake antivenom and the swelling and inflammation went down and her blood results improved.

She spent 48 hours in hospital and doctors emphasised the vital role her hiking group and RAC Rescue played in preventing the serious effects of what turned out to be two bites from a highly venomous King Brown.

Danuta’s rescue is a warning for West Aussies this summer to be cautious when hiking or out in the bush.

Danuka in hospital

Image: Danuta in her hospital bed, all smiles and on the road to recovery.

While snake bites are uncommon in Australia, they should all be treated as life-threatening. Learn the signs and symptoms, and how to treat a snake bite, on the St John WA website.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has the following advice for hikers:

  1. Check conditions before setting out.
  2. Carry a first-aid kit and reliable equipment.
  3. Ideally hike with someone else, or make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
  4. Bring supplies, including plenty of water and food for longer hikes.
  5. Carry a registered Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), especially if hiking alone or somewhere remote. This means authorities can find you more easily, saving precious minutes in an emergency.
The RAC Rescue helicopters are sponsored by RAC, funded by the State Government and managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).