Search passes by mud-covered man
A 75-YEAR-OLD man lay unconscious, covered in mud and virtually hidden under a tree as rescuers searched frantically for him at the weekend.
The man had gone missing from his property at Port Curtis, near Rockhampton, between Friday night and Saturday morning.
Fearing for his safety, his family raised the alarm and authorities launched a full-scale search on Saturday.
The RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service searched from above, while State Emergency Service workers co-ordinated a search in sweltering conditions below.
Port Curtis residents also helped in any way they could, combing the area on horseback, motorbikes and four-wheel drives.
But the motionless, semi-camouflaged man proved hard to find. Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service chief aircraft officer Paul Tongue said he had flown over the man many times without spotting him.
He said he believed a ground crew had also passed him a few times without seeing him for the mud and leaves that covered him.
Mr Tongue said the man had been found by chance around 4pm when a ground searcher had paused to scratch his head when he noticed the elderly man lying under the tree.
He had wandered about 1.5km from his home.
The man, still wearing his pyjamas, suffered dehydration and was taken to Rockhampton Hospital.
"It was just such bizarre cir- cumstances,'' Mr Tongue said.
Mr Tongue praised the Port Curtis community for their support.
"It's great to see a happy ending because the man was alive, but it's good to see how the local community helped.''
The Archer Hotel owners, Tracy and Robert White, said residents had been happy to do whatever they could to help.
Mrs White said the hotel had taken free drinks and ice to emergency workers at the man's property upon hearing of the search.
"He was one of our patron's friends so we thought we'd just help out.
"You've got to help each other,'' Mrs White said.
Mrs White said the SES rarely got a thank-you for all the work they did and she believed the drinks had been the least they could do.