Westerford pupil dies while on tour

Grade 11 Westerford High School pupil Shannen Rustin, 17, tragically passed away in Vietnam last week.

The cause of a Rondebosch schoolgirl’s death while visiting Southeast Asia on a school trip remains a mystery.

Grade 11 Westerford High School pupil Shannen Rustin, 17, collapsed and died during a excursion with schoolmates in Vietnam on Friday December 8.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer expressed her condolences to Shannen’s family and Westerford school community last week.

Shannen was part of a group of 32 pupils on an educational history tour of Southeast Asia, visiting Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

On Friday morning last week, the group left on a cycle ride from near their hotel in Hoi An, Vietnam, before Shannen collapsed.

“We don’t know the actual cause of death at this stage,” said Ms Schafer before sharing details from tour guide Gordon Brookbanks of the moments leading up to the schoolgirl’s death.

According to Mr Brookbanks, the group had left the hotel at 8.30am. The weather was overcast and mild.

Some pupils had had difficulty with riding a bicycle and instead travelled on the back of scooters.

After about 30 minutes of cycling Shannen had told the tour operator that she was tired and she had then travelled on the back of a scooter with the tour operator, who had reported that she was “chatting and laughing” with him.

“At 09.10am, the group stopped at the approach to a bridge, which crosses a river, to rest and take photos.

“Mr Brookbanks was reportedly called and informed that Shannen had collapsed,” said Ms Schafer.

She said Mr Brookbanks had then instructed the tour operator to take them to the nearest hospital which was six minutes away, and while travelling to the hospital, Mr Brookbanks had tried to revive Shannen with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Ms Schafer said emergency staff at the hospital had tried in vain to resuscitate Shannen for over an hour.

Her family had been informed immediately after she had collapsed and of her subsequent death, said Ms Schafer.

“Shannen’s family have travelled to Vietnam and will be supported by Westerford staff.

“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.

“My deepest condolences go to the Rustin family, friends and Westerford community,” said Ms Schafer.

Westerford principal Rob le Roux also expressed his condolences and said the school was “still reeling from the terrible tragedy”.