Pranked hospital nurse commits suicide, radio DJs off air

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   Dec. 7, 2012 at 10:14 AM   |   Comments

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Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Update, 2:30 p.m. ET

The Australian radio station at the center of a prank call that appears to have led to the suicide death of a London nurse has taken the two DJs off air.

In a statement on the 2Day FM Facebook page, owners Southern Cross Austereo offered condolences to the family of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who apparently committed suicide after falling victim to a prank call made by DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

"Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) and 2Day FM are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha from King Edward VII’s Hospital and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all that have been affected by this situation around the world," the statement said.

"Chief Executive Officer Rhys Holleran has spoken with the presenters, they are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they not comment about the circumstances. SCA and the hosts have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy."

Greig and Christian have been under a barrage of criticism on Facebook and Twitter since the news of Saldanha's death began to spread Friday morning. The station had already apologized once, after the hospital expressed anger at the trick, saying the call had been pre-recorded and approved by lawyers before it was broadcast.

That hasn't stopped the anger coming from listeners around the world, many calling for Greig and Christian to be fired from their jobs at the station, or charged with manslaughter. "Who prank calls a hospital of all places??!" one commenter wrote in response to SCA's statement. "How is that even remotely funny? Her blood is on your hands."

Others were more judicious: "Sorry, it was a harmless prank," one wrote. "Plain and simple... Nobody in their right mind would think somebody was going to kill themselves over this."

Original post follows

It's all in good fun until someone loses an eye, or in this case, tragically, ends her life.

A hospital nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, who fell victim to a prank call to Kate Middleton's hospital room appears to have killed herself just yards away from the hospital where she worked, the Daily Mail reported.

The hospital said in a statement: ““We can confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha."

”Jacintha has worked at the King Edward VII Hospital for more than four years," the statement read. "She was an excellent nurse and a well-respected and popular member of staff with all her colleagues. We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital has been supporting her at this difficult time.”

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends. Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague,” hospital chief executive John Lofthouse added.

Full hospital statement

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, also expressed their condolences.

”Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.“

It began as a good-natured joke: radio hosts from Australia called the hospital where Kate Middleton was recovering from severe morning sickness, pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles in the hopes they would get through to Kate.

The call was broadcast on the show 2D FM in Sydney Tuesday. Host Mel Greig can be heard making a poor attempt at an octogenarian British accent.

"Oh, hello there. Could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?"

"Oh yes, just hold on ma’am," the Saldanha, replied. Apparently believing she was speaking to Queen Elizabeth, she then passed the call along to the nurse at Kate's ward, who also fell for the joke.

The nurse went on to disclose medical information on Kate's health, and advised when members of the royal family might best visit the ailing Duchess.

Saldanha was discovered unconscious at 9:30 a.m. local time Friday. Emergency services were called to the scene but unable to revive her.

The exact nature of her death is unclear, the Daily Mail reports, but a source indicated that her death was self-inflicted. Scotland Yard is treating the death as "unexplained" but not suspicious.

The Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in central London Monday, dehydrated and suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Although she is probably less than 12 weeks pregnant, fears that the hospital visit would raise questions prompted the royals to announce the pregnancy earlier than planned. She has since been released and is resting at home.

The DJs apologized for their prank after the hoax call made international headlines, explaining that they never expected the call would actually go through.

"We were very surprised that our call was put through," Greig and Christian said in a joint statement with the station. "We thought we'd be hung up on as soon as they heard our terrible accents. We're very sorry if we've caused any issues and we're glad to hear that Kate is doing well."

The station is expected to release a statement on Saldanha's death later today.

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