Two friends miss­ing af­ter ve­hi­cle mired

Edmonton Journal - - NP - SIOB­HÁN O’GRADY

When three friends set off for a drive through the Aus­tralian out­back last month, the few pro­vi­sions they packed — beef noo­dles, bis­cuits and some cans of vodka — in­di­cated they didn’t ex­pect to be gone long.

Then things went ter­ri­bly awry.

On Nov. 19, as the trio passed over a riverbed, their car got stuck.

For three days, Tamra Mcbeath-ri­ley, 52, Claire Hock­ridge, 46, and Phu Tran, 40, tried to dig it out, sur­viv­ing off what little they had with them in hopes they would soon be back on the road, the BBC re­ported. As their cir­cum­stances grew more dire and the car wouldn’t budge, they moved to­ward a nearby wa­ter­ing hole with Mcbeath-ri­ley’s dog, Raya.

Fear­ing the worst as days passed and no one came to their res­cue, they sep­a­rated some­time around Thurs­day, hop­ing one of them would find help and guide res­cuers to the oth­ers. Hock­ridge and Tran set out on foot to­gether with a GPS and a com­pass. Mcbeath-ri­ley stayed back with Raya, close to the wa­ter she knew they needed to sur­vive.

She was res­cued Sun­day af­ter Aus­tralian po­lice de­ployed he­li­copters to search for the group. But Hock­ridge and Tran have not been found.

Mcbeath-ri­ley told re­porters out­side a hos­pi­tal where she was treated for de­hy­dra­tion Mon­day that when help ar­rived, she fig­ured Hock­ridge and Tran were also safe. Now that she knows they’re still miss­ing, “I’m wor­ried to death,” she said.

In the Aus­tralian out­back, peo­ple and towns are few and far be­tween, and Pauline Vi­cary, po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent for Aus­tralia’s Northern Ter­ri­tory, said the un­for­giv­ing re­gion made the search es­pe­cially com­pli­cated.

“Be­cause of the ter­rain that they have gone miss­ing in, and be­cause we don’t have a par­tic­u­larly fo­cused area, we are still do­ing the he­li­copters,” she told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Corp. “It’s quite a di­verse ter­rain — there’s sandy dunes, there’s hard clay, there’s ar­eas of dense trees but there is also rocks and ranges in the area as well.”

Mcbeath-ri­ley told re­porters the group ini­tially sur­vived by dig­ging holes un­der their car to shel­ter from the sun. Once they reached the wa­ter­ing hole, they used a T-shirt to fil­ter the un­clean wa­ter, she said.

Hik­ers and tourists have gone miss­ing in this area be­fore. In Jan­uary, Ger­man tourist Monika Billen was found dead near Alice Springs af­ter she dis­ap­peared while on a hike. Po­lice also searched for her us­ing drones and a plane.

Vi­cary told re­porters Mon­day that po­lice have iden­ti­fied one pair of foot­prints in their search for Hock­ridge and Tran. That could mean the pair, who Mcbeath-ri­ley said in­tended to walk to­gether, un­ex­pect­edly split up.

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