Man found in Outback
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.