Rescued bushwalkers, from left, Scott, Michael, Harold, Cam and Caleb were relieved to be home after spending 36 hours in Conway National Park.
Rescued bushwalkers, from left, Scott, Michael, Harold, Cam and Caleb were relieved to be home after spending 36 hours in Conway National Park.

Lost bushwalkers tell of ordeal

FIVE bushwalkers who spent 36 hours in Conway National Park before being rescued on Monday night have spoken of their ordeal.

The man and four teens, who did not want their full names published, sparked a search on Sunday after failing to return from a trip to a waterfall, which they began at 11am.

Harold, 54, Caleb, 15, and 16-year-olds Cam, Michael and Scott said they were wearing shorts and t-shirts and only had knives, a lighter and binoculars in their backpack when they became disoriented.

They had no food and were forced to drink water from the park’s rivers to stay hydrated until they were spotted by the RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter at 1.15pm on Monday, they said.

“I said to the boys there was no way they would see us,” Harold said.

“It is unbelievable.

“We knew we were way off track but we thought we would come out the other side.

“Everyone was fine; not at one stage did we panic.”

Harold said he was familiar with the area, having visited the waterfall about 20 times in the last 11 years, however, the party became disoriented after walking to the ridge at the top of the range.

They trekked for a few hours, believing they were heading home, before realising they were on the wrong path.

Eventually the bushwalkers accepted they would have to sleep in the park for the night.

They settled down by a river bank for the cold, rainy and windy night, which Scott described as the worst in his life.

At first light on Monday, they tried to find their way home and eventually decided to follow the creek line, which provided the clearest path through the bush.

The bushwalkers yesterday described their relief when they were spotted by the CQ Rescue crew, who told them to stay put and wait for rescuers to arrive on foot.

The helicopter, which was unable to winch them to safety due to the dense bush, later returned and delivered a box with jumpers, food, tents, radios and a torch to equip the bushwalkers until help arrived.

Airlie Beach State Emergency Service group leader Andrew Sander said it took him and his team three hours to trek 3km to the lost bushwalkers.

“It was very arduous, rough terrain,” he said.

“When we got to them (at 6.50pm) we called out on the radio (which we had dropped to them via CQ Rescue).

“They had pitched tents and had some food to eat.

“They had a little campfire. They were very jovial when we came across them.

“They were very relieved to have been found and happy to move on. They were all in good spirits.”

SES Whitsunday controller Mark Connors said the teenagers looked “as fresh as a daisy” when they finally emerged from the park at 11pm.

“(The) dad was okay but I’m sure he was glad it was over,” he said.



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