Anybody can find themselves in this situation, no matter who you are, or how well-prepared…
Leanne and her partner Jon, an experienced outdoorsman, had been exploring the West Coast in their 4WD when they stopped for what was meant to be a quick 5-minute walk to an old water diversion tunnel. “On the way back we were laughing and joking”, Leanne says, “and not really paying attention…after half an hour we realised we’d gone too far. I wanted to walk back along the track, but Jon said, “nah, we’ll just cut down and walk along the river. Biggest mistake of our lives.”
They didn’t know it at the time, but Leanne and Jon hadn’t walked back to the river they’d parked their vehicle next to, but a completely different one. They followed it along its course, but of course were unable to find the place they started. By the time night fell they were completely lost in dense rainforest.
Leanne explains, “The terrain there is amazingly rugged, you’ve got to see it to believe it…I had no idea how thick rainforest could be.” Jon, a search-and-rescue worker himself, built a little shelter for them, and they kept each other warm through the night. Being a long weekend, Leanne knew that they wouldn’t be missed for another few days at least, and by the time the police were notified Leanne and Jon had spent three nights in the bush with no supplies.
Leanne’s son Tim flew down from Sydney to join the search party. Knowing a lot about the tracks in the area and Leanne and Jon’s habits, Tim was able to help the police locate the vehicle, and direct the search party to likely locations.
Just on dusk on the fifth day, Leanne and Jon heard the helicopter in the distance, and knew help was at hand. Leanne says, “We got in the middle of the river and waved and yelled…and all of a sudden we could hear a noise, could see all the leaves vibrating at the end of the river not far away from us, and then up it came, the big red-and-yellow bird.” She smiles with the obvious memory of relief.
Leanne stresses, “Anybody can find themselves in this situation, no matter who you are, or how well-prepared, and it’s good to know something like the Westpac Rescue helicopter can come and save you. It’s something absolutely anybody can benefit from. It makes a difference to lives, certainly to my life, Jon’s life.”
“Unfortunately Jon passed away 18 months ago, but because of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter we got to spend another ten years together. So many people need this service.”