Chopper crew finds missing walkers
GIVING the thumbs up has probably never felt so good: neither has receiving a message in a bottle.
After spending a winter night lost in dense bushland at Conway National Park, a father and four teens were relieved to see the RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter hovering above them at 1.15pm yesterday.
All five bushwalkers gave the thumbs up to signal they were okay, before the helicopter crew dropped them a one-litre plastic bottle containing the message “Stay put – ground crew on the way”.
A man, 54, and four teens, 16 and 17, were reported missing at 5pm on Sunday after failing to return from a three-hour bushwalk, which they began at about 11am.
State Emergency Service (SES) Whitsunday local controller Mark Connors said about 30 people were involved in the search for the missing walkers, who had strayed about 2km from the Whitsunday Great Walk track at Cannon Valley.
Dense vegetation prevented the CQ Rescue crew from winching the bushwalkers up to the helicopter when they found them yesterday afternoon, so a team of four volunteers set off on foot, he said.
The rescuers were expected to retrieve the bushwalkers last night, however, rough terrain may have forced them to spend the night in the park.
CQ Rescue had delivered tents, food and water to the bushwalkers to ensure they were equipped for this.
Mr Connors said friends and family members, who gathered at a house during the search, were relieved to hear the missing bushwalkers had been spotted.
“There was a lot of tears when the news came through,” he said.
“It was an overwhelming relief – lots of tears and lots of emotion.
“They’re in rough country and it was going to be difficult if the helicopter didn’t find them.
“It was certainly a relief for us because we were looking at days of the guys struggling through the thick bush (looking for them).
“I don’t know the story yet, but they were a long way off the track.”
Intensive care paramedic Mel Bernas spotted one of the bushwalkers waving while she was aboard the CQ Rescue helicopter.
“They were all moving freely and in good spirits.
"They were just happy to be found,” she said.