The online rugby fraternity showed its collective strength when a suicidal rugby forum contributor in New Zealand last week posted his suicide note on South Africa’s PlanetRugby Chat Forum.
Former British Policeman Tobi Lothian, currently a serving officer in Hong Kong, was key to saving the life of a man who is now in intensive care in New Zealand after a massive drug and drink overdose.
The man, whose family wishes for anonymity, sparked a frantic global search on Wednesday when he posted the following note: “Cheers Guys. Over and Out.”
PlanetRugby forum moderators in South Africa, the UK, New Zealand and Hong Kong sprang into action, believing – from the poster’s previous comments – this to be a genuine cry for help.
Forum moderator Tobi Lothian is, by day, chief inspector of the Hong Kong Police and by night, one of Hong Kong’s leading rugby referees.
“Knowing this guy was not a prankster, we took his threat seriously,” Lothian says. “When he then added: ‘Ok, last beer. Then 20 X Triazolam 125mcg, 75 Tramadol 50mg and 12 Metoprolol 190mg. That should do the trick’, we felt compelled to act.”
With the forum members based around the key rugby playing nations, many had formed friendships in real life. In a frenzied collective effort, the forum and its South African-based editorial team and owners got to work as IP addresses were chased hither and thither and calls were made to find the man’s location.
Lothian, through his professional network, took the brave step of contacting the New Zealand Police Service.
“I was aware we might sound like crackpots, but fortunately the police there took us seriously. Obviously, we then had the challenge of tracking the poster down, but fortunately with IP addresses and the like we were able to give them a rough idea of location and they took it from there.”
Lothian’s notification was corroborated by a New Zealand-based poster in the area, who wishes to remain unnamed.
Commenting on the life-saving chain of events that unfolded, Ross Hastie, editor of PlanetRugby.com, says: “Forums are usually renowned for mud-slinging and name-calling, so it’s refreshing to see internauts acting like adults and helping out a guy in trouble.
“We’ve always called PlanetRugby ‘the world’s biggest rugby club’ and it’s great to see an example of how rugby’s camaraderie can extend beyond borders and time zones to save a life.”
The man remains in a stable but critical condition in an Auckland hospital.