Health officials are trying to work out how a 30-year-old miner who didn’t leave his Outback town caught coronavirus before becoming the youngest Australian killed by the disease.
Nathan Turner, who had underlying health conditions, was found dead at home in Blackwater, Queensland by his devastated fiancee on Tuesday afternoon.
A post-mortem revealed he had the virus but mystery surrounds how he caught it because he hadn’t left the coal-mining town, which has zero cases, since February.
Officials are urging the town’s 5,000 to get tested. So far around 50 tests, including 18 of Mr Turner’s family and friends, have come back negative.
Nathan Turner (pictured) was found dead at his home by his partner on Tuesday afternoon
Investigators are probing whether an infected nurse who enjoyed an illegal 300km road trip to ‘watch the sunset’ in his town may have given it to him.
But Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles today said Mr Turner had symptoms before the unnamed nurse drove from Rockhamptom on 10 May.
‘The timing of that trip means it’s unlikely that she is the source of the infection, but it’s possible,’ he said.
The Commonwealth’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly on Wednesday said Mr Turner had been suffering from coronavirus symptoms for three weeks, meaning the nurse could not have been the source.
‘He had three weeks of a respiratory illness prior to his death,’ he said.
Officials are also probing whether a FIFO worker may have given him the illness.
‘There is a significant fly-in, fly-out workforce, so all of that is being investigated as well,’ Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said.
Nathan Turner (pictured) was described as the ‘life and soul of the party’ by his devastated mates after he became the youngest person in Australia to die with coronavirus
Nathan Turner (pictured, left) with his partner Simone Devon (right) who discovered his body on Tuesday after she returned from work
Another possibility is that Mr Turner did not have the virus at all.
A second test conducted on Mr Turner’s body returned a negative result for coronavirus – but Ms Young has rejected it.
‘It was contaminated with quite a bit of blood. So therefore, it wasn’t an effective test,’ she said.
Dr Young rejected suggestions that the first test was a ‘false positive.’
It was contaminated with quite a bit of blood. So therefore, it wasn’t an effective test
Dr Jeanette Young rejects second negative test on Mr Turner’s body
‘There was a test done which is a very sensitive test and it came back positive,’ she said.
Mr Turner had numerous health problems and had been off work since November.
He has been added to Queensland’s COVID-19 death toll and the national death toll of 103.
The nurse being investigated is already embroiled in scandal after going to work at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre aged care home, despite having symptoms of the disease.
The woman has admitted going on an illegal road trip on May 10, driving 167km from Rockhampton to Blackwater to allegedly ‘see the sunset’.
She told health officials she had visited the mining town briefly to admire the views, but claimed to have not left her car.
She allegedly told authorities of her bizarre road trip shortly after her initial diagnosis, prompting questions as to why no one in the town was informed.
Local MP Brittany Lauga told the Courier Mail that the nurse, who is under investigation by the Crime and Corruption Commission, should be fined for breaking lockdown rules.
Nathan Turner (pictured) is the youngest person in Australia to die with COVID-19, taking the national death toll to 103
A nurse is alleged to have gone to work at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre (pictured on May 16) despite having symptoms of COVID-19
At this time, travel over more than 50km was only allowed for essential reasons, which would not include admiring a sunset.
‘It’s irresponsible. It’s against the law,’ Ms Lauga said.
‘It doesn’t make sense to anyone I’ve spoken to who lives in this region why you wouldn’t get out of the car, go to the loo or anything and we rely on people being honest with their contact tracing.’
It comes as Mr Turner’s devastated friends paid tribute to their mate, who had recently proposed to his girlfriend.
‘He was a larrikin and always the life of the party,’ one friend said.
A coal miner, Mr Turner had been off work since November after suffering from seizures and complex medical problems.
Tests were conducted after his death, as despite showing symptoms for three weeks, he had not been tested.
His shock diagnosis forced the closure of the town’s police station, after three officers were forced into home isolation, as were paramedics who rushed to the scene.
Fiancee Simone Devon, who discovered his body in their home when she returned from work at a local bakery, has since tested negative.
The bakery has been closed ‘indefinitely’, and Ms Devon is isolating at home before being tested again.
But reports on Wednesday night claimed there was uncertainty about Mr Turner’s condition, despite Queensland Health officials saying he died of COVID-19.
The victim has not worked since November and has not left the central Queensland town of since February. Blackwater (pictured) has a population of about 4,500 people
His death brought Australia’s coronavirus death toll to 103.
It is understood that a test conducted on Tuesday night tested positive for the virus, but a second test came back negative, with sources saying it was contaminated and therefore invalid.
A statement from Queensland Health said it had no evidence to confirm the two cases were related, but it is investigating all relevant information.
‘Contact-tracing information provided to Queensland Health for the central Queensland case identified on May 14 was that the individual travelled to Blackwater in the second week of May but did not interact with other individuals there,’ it said.
‘Information provided to Queensland Health about the case identified today indicated the man had respiratory symptoms since the first week of May.
Nathan Turner (pictured) worked as a miner, but had been off work since November, officials said
‘At this time, no evidence has been provided to Queensland Health that links the two cases. But we will continue to assess all information relevant to any case.’
Earlier this month, the unnamed nurse continued working at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre despite having coronavirus symptoms.
The nurse is reported to have been contagious since May 3, and continued working with the elderly residents despite showing symptoms from May 5.
She later tested positive, sparking a frantic testing blitz of the centre’s 200 vulnerable residents – all of whom tested negative.
The nurse has been suspended and has been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission over an alleged breach of public health directions.
A nurse is seen testing a woman for COVID-19 at a testing centre in Sydney on May 12 (pictured) with similar tests being performed at the Queensland aged care centre
Mining trucks are seen in Blackwater (pictured) where Mr Turner worked, but had not been at work since November
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said it proves why anyone with symptoms should stay home, particularly if they have contact with vulnerable people.
‘It is very, very difficult to understand,’ she said.
‘The most important thing we can all do to protect each other is to stay at home if we’re sick.’
Nathan Turner (pictured) became the youngest person to die of COVID-19 in Australia, aged just 30
During a press conference held on Wednesday morning, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said it appeared the man had been ill for several weeks.
‘He has a complicated medical history and that also needs to be worked through,’ she said.
‘Age is not a total predictor of people who are going to do badly.
‘The other thing is we don’t know the impact of the other medical issues he had. That will be something for the coroner to look at.
‘Whether or not COVID-19 was the precipitating cause for his death, that’s how we report it.’
Clinics have now been set up in Blackwater and Emerald so anyone with symptoms can be tested.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles urged ‘anyone in Queensland’ to get a coronavirus test.
‘This message is particularly important for all the blokes out there,’ he said.
‘I know that men sometimes fob off their illnesses, they don’t go and get medical assistance, but it’s incredibly important right now that anyone with symptoms goes and gets tested.’
Residents in Blackwater (pictured) will now be tested for COVID-19, after an infected nurse admitted travelling to the town