New Idea - - Real-life - By Emma Levett

It was 9.30pm and Sandy Kam­per was in Bris­bane for a work trip when she got the phone call that would strike ter­ror into any par­ent.

“My hus­band Bill was scream­ing that some­thing had hap­pened to Paris. She was in the pad­dock. The am­bu­lance [peo­ple] were work­ing on her,” 49-year-old Sandy tells New Idea, shak­ily. Her 15-year-old daugh­ter, Paris, was an Olympic horse­woman-in-train­ing so Sandy’s im­me­di­ate thought was that there’d been a ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent with a horse. But the re­al­ity was far more un­ex­pected and far worse.

“I stayed calm. I knew Paris was strong and fit, and as I got in a taxi and zoomed to the air­port I just prayed she’d be OK,” Sandy says.

The fol­low­ing hours were a race against time as Sandy had to char­ter a plane to get her back to Syd­ney be­cause all the com­mer­cial flights were closed.

“I was tex­ting and call­ing [the fam­ily]. Paris was taken to West­mead Hos­pi­tal and she was sta­ble, but it wasn’t look­ing good. They thought it was al­co­hol, but I as­sumed they’d pump her stomach and she’d be OK,” Sandy says.

When she ar­rived in the early hours of the morn­ing, Sandy was hit full force by the un­fold­ing sit­u­a­tion. Paris’ al­co­hol read­ing was sky high and she was in a coma that doc­tors couldn’t prom­ise she’d wake up from.

To Sandy, it didn’t make any sense.

“She was a level-headed kid. She’d never drunk or said she wanted to. She’d been at home with her sis­ter watch­ing TV and play­ing with

the dogs.”

Just that day Paris had been to visit a new horse and sent Sandy videos of her rid­ing, ex­cit­edly telling her she could go all the way to the Olympics with this one.

“She was so happy,” Sandy smiles. “There was noth­ing funny go­ing on with her. I couldn’t un­der­stand any of it.”

So the fol­low­ing morn­ing, when Paris started to crash and the treat­ment was fail­ing, Sandy knew she needed an­swers.

“The doc­tor was say­ing I had to find out if she’d had drugs and that’s when I found the In­sta­gram video saved on her phone,” Sandy says.

The video showed a cock­tail recipe – us­ing vodka and boiled lol­lies – and the com­ments un­der­neath were chill­ing. “This is a heart at­tack,” read one. “Death in a glass,” joked an­other.

“When I saw that, I knew straight away what she’d done,” Sandy says.

“Paris was a cu­ri­ous kid. She was al­ways ex­per­i­ment­ing, mak­ing play-doh and slime, bak­ing and putting stuff in the bath. I knew she’d copied that video be­cause she’d thought it looked fun. She’d mixed a packet of sour war­heads with a bot­tle of vodka and drunk it straight.”

But de­spite hav­ing the in­for­ma­tion it was too late and there was lit­tle the doc­tors could now do. They sta­bilised Paris but on June 10 she was pro­nounced clin­i­cally brain dead as a re­sult of swelling caused by lack of oxy­gen.

“I’d warned her about driv­ing too fast and about ‘bad’ boys. We’d talked about so­cial me­dia. I’d told her horses were dan­ger­ous, but I’d never told her if she drank straight vodka over an hour she’d be dead be­cause I didn’t know,” Sandy sobs.

“That much al­co­hol is lethal to a child. Our cul­ture is all about drink­ing but it’s lethal. It killed her in 40 min­utes.”

That night be­fore Paris’ death, Sandy tells how she was al­lowed to sleep next to her daugh­ter one last time un­til the fol­low­ing day, sur­rounded by her fam­ily and friends, Paris’ ma­chines were turned off.

“I held her the whole time. I felt her heart stop,” Sandy says. “Ev­ery­one was hys­ter­i­cal, but I stayed by her side. I didn’t eat or sleep. I stood firm un­til there was noth­ing more I could do.”

Back home Paris’ par­ents, her sis­ters, Olivia and Phoebe, brother Ryan, best friend Charlise and all the lo­cal com­mu­nity have been left reel­ing.

“I’ve had so many mums come up to me and say that could have been their child,” Sandy says.

“I want them to know there is a real dan­ger with al­co­hol. It hap­pened to us and we’re just a nor­mal fam­ily.

“Al­co­hol isn’t fun. It’s a poi­son and I want to help ed­u­cate peo­ple about the dan­gers be­cause I didn’t know how lethal it could be.”

“The ache is there con­stantly,” she goes on. “See­ing my fam­ily and my kids in so much pain is rip­ping my heart out, but we have to deal with it the best way we can and make her proud.

“She wouldn’t want me to be an­gry and if what hap­pened to her can save an­other child’s life, stop an­other par­ent go­ing through what we are, then that’s a good thing.”


Paris’ heart­bro­ken mother, Sandy, has opened up about her daugh­ter’s tragic death.

Young Paris was a keen eques­trian and an Olympic hope­ful – but her life was cru­elly cut short by a cock­tail recipe she mixed at home.

Sandy de­scribes her daugh­ter as “a cu­ri­ous kid” and be­lieves she copied the video be­cause it looked like “fun”.

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