Family Survives 10 Days Lost in Australia Park

Fended off dehydration by drinking rainwater

Dec 19, 2014
Outside Magazine

Lonkhuyzen and his two sons couldn't get their car out of the mud    Courtesy of Adian / Flickr

An Australian family driving through a remote part of Queensland became trapped on a muddy back road and was stuck for 10 days before being found by a local farmer on Sunday.

On December 11, 37-year-old Steven Van Lonkhuyzen and his two sons, ages five and seven, took a wrong turn inside Expedition National Park on a road trip from Brisbane to Cairns. They had meant to camp for a few days before arriving in Cairns; however, heavy rain caused the car, a Mitsubishi Pajero, to get bogged down in a muddy road. Stuck—with a broken two-way radio and without cellular reception—Lonkhuyzen sent up flares, surrounded his vehicle with high-visibility towels, and tried sending SOS signals with the car horn, but nobody heard or saw any of his calls for help. They survived by rationing four days worth of camping supplies and trapping rainwater in plastic containers.

When the family failed to arrive in Cairns by December 15, alarms were raised and police and locals began searching the 417-square-mile park. Collecting rainwater saved the family, according to Acting Superintendent Mick Bianchi, who coordinated the police search.

Local cattle farmer Tom Wagner recalled seeing the family enter the park. When he heard about the police search, he hopped on his quad bike, entered the park, and soon found them. “They were very close to running out of food when they were found, and they had nine liters of water with them in the car that were used up,” according to Bianchi.

According to reports, the man and his sons were found in good spirits and decent condition, having only lost some weight. The boys are recovering in Tarooom Hospital in Eastern Australia. The car is still trapped in the mud.

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