A woman and her 9-year-old son have survived for 11 days without food in remote bushland in the Hunter Valley, using leaves to collect water and sharing a pair of shoes, authorities say.
Michelle Small, 40, and her son Dylan Deane were rescued on Thursday in the Mount Royal National Park, north of Singleton, police said, after their plan for a two-hour bushwalk on October 2 went drastically wrong.
Authorities, who spent nearly four days navigating the steep slopes and thick scrub in the 6920-hectare park, were ecstatic to find the pair alive, and surprisingly well, at 12.30pm.
“We’re really amazed and happy,” Singleton police duty officer Inspector Joanne Schultz said. “We’re very relieved that they’re OK and fine, that they’re both well and got through that ordeal.”
The ordeal began when the mother and son set off with no food and minimal water for what was meant to be a short walk in the park, a one-hour drive north of their Singleton home.
“They went walking in the Mount Royal National Park on Monday, October 2, and they became disorientated,” Inspector Schultz said.
“A few days later, because they hadn’t been in contact with family and friends, they were reported missing to police but without any information as to where they went.
“Their car was then sighted in the car park of the Mount Royal National Park on October 9.”
After nearly four days of searching, with up to 40 police, NSW Ambulance and State Emergency Service members combing the area, the pair was finally found.
“They were in quite good condition,” Inspector Schultz said. “They had some minor injuries, some cuts and abrasions, exposure and dehydration but will likely have no long-term ill effects.”
She said the mother appeared to have entered into “survival mode”, focusing on getting through the ordeal.
Inspector Andrew Steenson from NSW Ambulance participated in the search. He said the terrain was “really quite hostile”.
“There are some steep slopes and thick scrub, and it drops off by about 500 metres in some parts of the search area,” he said. “Given that the search has been under way for four days, it was really good to find them in such good physical shape.”
Inspector Steenson said the pair had told of using leaves to collect water, removing ticks and leeches from each other, sharing a pair of shoes and tying grass around trees to mark their location.
Ms Small and Dylan were taken to Singleton Hospital with minor injuries.
Temperatures in the park have been as low as 7.1 degrees overnight and high as 31.5 degrees during the day, according to Weatherzone.