SYDNEY — They expected a hang-up and a few laughs. But the Australian DJs behind a hoax phone call to the London hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was being treated were deeply apologetic Monday as they described how the joke went too far.
The call, in which they impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, went through, and their station broadcast and even trumpeted the confidential information they received.
Whatever pride there had been over the hoax was obliterated by public outrage after Friday’s death, still unexplained, of Jacintha Saldanha, the first nurse they talked to.
‘‘There’s not a minute that goes by that we don’t think about her family and what they must be going through,’’ 2DayFM radio host Mel Greig told Australia’s ‘‘A Current Affair,’’ her voice shaking. ‘‘And the thought that we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching.’’
She and co-host Michael Christian spoke publicly about the prank for the first time in the interview. A separate one on another program, “Today Tonight,’’ also aired Monday.
Both DJs cried when asked about the moment they learned Saldanha was dead. Neither described having reservations before the hoax tape was broadcast; they said higher-ups at the station had decided to air it.
Southern Cross Austereo, parent company of 2DayFM, said Greig and Christian’s show had been terminated and there would be a companywide suspension of prank calls. The DJs remain suspended.
Saldanha, 46, had transferred their call to a fellow nurse at King Edward VII Hospital in London. That nurse said the former Kate Middleton ‘‘hasn’t had any retching with me and she’s been sleeping on and off.’’ Three days later, Saldanha was found dead. Police have not disclosed the cause of death but many assume it was related to stress from the call.