Man found in Out­back

The Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - JUDITH AISTHORPE

A SOUTH Aus­tralian man who van­ished in the Out­back two weeks ago has been found alive – but one of his two com­pan­ions is still miss­ing.

NT Po­lice said Phu Tran, from Ade­laide’s north, was found by a pas­toral­ist yes­ter­day morn­ing, about 160km south­west of Alice Springs, 15 days af­ter go­ing miss­ing.

Mr Tran and his friend, Tamra McBeath-Ri­ley, were res­cued af­ter sur­viv­ing on pre­mixed vodka cans, bis­cuits and wa­ter, but Claire Hock­ridge re­mains miss­ing.

Pas­toral­ist Ted Fog­a­rty was yes­ter­day do­ing a rou­tine bore check, in the Palmer Val­ley area, when he found Mr Tran and con­tacted po­lice at 8.15am.

Mr Tran, 40, was found about 12-13km from where the Mit­subishi dual-cab ute he was trav­el­ling in was dis­cov­ered.

He was taken to the Alice Springs Hos­pi­tal for treat­ment for ex­po­sure. Northern Ter­ri­tory Po­lice con­tinue to search for Ms Hock­ridge, 46.

Alice Springs Su­per­in­ten­dent Pauline Vi­cary said Mr Tran and Ms Hock­ridge had sep­a­rated about two days ago when they reached the bound­ary fence of the station.

Supt Vi­cary said Mr Tran had told them Ms Hock­ridge was OK at the time.

“(They) got to the bound­ary fence and … he de­cided to fol­low the fence line, and he left her there,” she said. “He con­tin­ued to walk along the fence line for two days and ap­proached the pas­toral­ist and the first thing he did was get some wa­ter.”

Supt Vi­cary said Mr Tran was slightly dis­ori­ented but oth­er­wise ap­peared well.

“I don’t know if this is un­prece­dented but if you be­lieve in mir­a­cles, I’m say­ing it’s a mir­a­cle,” she said.

Po­lice are now turn­ing their at­ten­tion to­wards find­ing Ms Hock­ridge and have been able to nar­row down their search to a smaller area af­ter find­ing Mr Tran.

Their other com­pan­ion, Ms Hock­ridge’s part­ner Tamra McBeath-Ri­ley, 52, was found on Sun­day with her dog Raya, af­ter a po­lice he­li­copter search found their ute bogged in a river bed.

Ms McBeath-Ri­ley, who was found about 1.5km from the ve­hi­cle, was taken to the Alice Springs Hos­pi­tal to be treated for de­hy­dra­tion and ex­po­sure.

She spoke briefly out­side hos­pi­tal, say­ing how the trio had sur­vived the first few days.

“First off, we had about a 10pack of the black iced vodka cans … and a few waters,” she said. “About six litres of nor­mal wa­ter. So that’s what sus­tained us in the be­gin­ning.”

The trio had set out from Alice Springs for an af­ter­noon drive to Cham­bers Pil­lar, on Tues­day, Novem­ber 19, and be­came bogged in the Finke River.

They had pre­vi­ously told friends and fam­ily they were go­ing for a daytrip drive south of Alice Springs but failed to re­turn home. They were re­ported miss­ing by a fam­ily mem­ber four days later. Supt Vi­cary said the three friends ini­tially waited with their stranded car but af­ter two days, no one came, so they aban­doned the ve­hi­cle, leav­ing a note in­side to in­di­cate the direc­tion they were tak­ing.

The group walked about 1.5km west, where they found pud­dles of ground­wa­ter from un­sea­sonal show­ers that had fallen over the dry river system in the past fort­night.

Supt Vi­cary said for one desperate week, they stayed to­gether, gath­er­ing the dirty wa­ter, boil­ing it when they could and us­ing a shirt to strain out the sed­i­ment.

Again, when no help came, they de­cided to split up.

Supt Vi­cary said the group had sur­vived on the little food they had with them – bis­cuits and beef noo­dles.

Tem­per­a­tures have nudged 40C in re­cent days.

ALIVE: Phu Tran was found af­ter 15 days. Left, Tamra McBeathRi­ley and Claire Hock­ridge, who is still miss­ing. Above, the ute they trav­elled in.

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