Aust pair shot in New Orleans after ride with stranger

 The 21 and 23-year-old WA Curtin University students, Toben Clements and Jake Rovacsek, were reported awake and alert in a stable condition at the city’s University Hospital after being shot in the chest and stomach.


Mr Rovacsek was believed to have suffered more serious injuries but both were improving, Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said.

The two had been drinking on the Bourbon St tourist strip at The Swamp bar when they met an unknown man at about 4am and asked to buy drugs.

They had got into a dark sedan with him and a driver and were driven at least 7km from the French quarter tourist area to the west bank Algiers area on the other side of the Mississippi River.

Algiers is one of the US’s most dangerous neighbourhoods, with high murder, crime and poverty rates – not a place where young Australian tourists should be at 4am buying drugs, New Orleans locals have told media.

Mr Clements and Mr Rovacsek told police they were greeted by a third man when they stopped in Algiers who told them they had to pay several hundred dollars for drugs, which they said they did not have.

One of the assailants had uttered a frightening warning before bullets were fired: “You know what time it is?”

The Australians are Kalgoorlie-based School of Mines students, celebrating and holidaying after the Wombats team they were in won a second straight world title in the Intercollegiate Mining Games in Butte, Montana, which is a competition involving traditional, old-fashioned mining activities.

Conditions of injured Curtin uni students in New Orleans continues to improve after shooting says uni spokeperson

— Ryan Emery SBS (@ryanremery) April 7, 2016

Mr Rovacsek was team captain and was quoted in a news report about the win in the local Montana Butte Sports website.

“We all work very hard for each other, we’ll celebrate this, we earned it,” he said, adding that pitstops were scheduled in New Orleans, Cancun and Las Vegas.

Both students’ families were either already in New Orleans or on their way, to be met by School of Mines director Sam Spearing, who also flew there.

“Both students are awake and alert, though still hospitalised. Family members of the two young men are either with them or arriving soon,”

— Ryan Emery SBS (@ryanremery) April 7, 2016

WA farmer Geoff Jones, whose son Griffin was also in the Wombats team, said the two were “fantastic young guys”.

“We’ve heard that they’re okay. One is in a fairly serious condition – he’s going to have a long road to recovery, the other one is not so bad,” he told ABC radio.

The attention and arrival of Australian media in New Orleans has surprised locals, given gun violence is an everyday occurrence in New Orleans.

There had already been more than 100 shootings and 30 homicides in 2016, with 165 last year in the city with a population of 384,000, the New Orleans Advocate reported, compared to less than 300 in Australia with a population of about 24 million.