Two Australian students didn’t make the wisest decisions during a trip to New Orleans Tuesday: they wandered off the beaten path to a crime-riddled part of town and ended up being shot.
Both young men, aged 23 and 21, suffered serious gunshot wounds — one in the chest and the other in the stomach — but both are in stable condition and expected to survive, the Times Picayune reported.
The Australians were identified as Jake Rovacsek, 23, and Toben Clements, 21, by ABC Australia. They were in New Orleans on a private vacation after arriving in the U.S. for the Intercollegiate Mining Games in Montana. The men are with the Western Australia School of Mines Wombats team out of Perth’s Curtin University.
Despite being shot, the men were lucid enough to provide police with an account of what happened that night.
Late Tuesday, the Australians headed to a New Orleans bar called The Swamp on Bourbon Street, ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald recounted.
At about 4 a.m., they approached an “unknown black male” and asked if they could buy drugs from him. The man apparently agreed and led the Australians from the bar and to a sedan. A driver was waiting inside.
The man drove the Australians across the Mississippi to Algiers, a suburb. Little did the tourists know, Algiers is New Orleans’ oldest, poorest, and most dangerous neighborhood. On the way, the driver told the young men that the drugs they sought came at a hefty price — several hundred dollars.
The Australians then had to admit that they didn’t have that much money. At one point, the car came to a stop and they got out. Another unknown male approached them and demanded their money. Again, they said they didn’t have enough.
One of the attackers then asked, “You know what time it is?”
Then shots rang out. The Australians were shot in the chest and stomach and the shooter jumped in the car with the driver and fled.
Now New Orleans police are hunting for three suspects.
The area in which the tourists were shot is known for drugs and violence, said a local crime reporter named Ken Daley.
“The area they were in, frankly, is one that is very well known for drug and violent gun activity at times, so it really was not the best place for them to be in and certainly not at four in the morning and it’s unfortunate that they have learned a very harsh lesson of that.”
And obviously, it’s not a place tourists generally visit, added another reporter, Matt Sledge, who called it “off the beaten path for visitors.”
The Australians’ families are on their way to the U.S. to visit their wounded loved ones, whom the parent of a Wombats team member, Geoff Jones, called “fantastic young guys.”
“We’ve heard that they’re OK — one is in a fairly serious condition, but he’s going to have a long road to recovery, and the other one is not so bad.”
Rovacsek’s injuries are reportedly more severe.
The hunt is now on for the unknown suspects believed to have shot the Australians. Detectives are hoping to uncover surveillance footage and glean information from locals. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is assisting the shot students and their families in the meantime, alongside the Australian consulate-general.
“We’re distressed by incident but we’re very happy that the students are recovering,” said Curtin deputy vice chancellor Jill Downie.
The competition that brought Rovacsek and Clements to the country pits teams around the world in old-fashioned mining techniques, like gold panning, surveying and shoveling dirt into carts.
[Photo by Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock]