Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Survival skills helped backpacker

Samuel Woodhead went missing in the Australian Outback for more than three days

A British backpacker who went missing in the Australian Outback for more than three days survived by drinking contact lens solution and his own urine, his mother has said.

Samuel Woodhead, 18, disappeared on Tuesday after he set out for a jog from a remote cattle station in a desolate part of Queensland.

His family believes he managed to stay alive for more than 72 hours in the scorching heat because he watched videos about the marines and was determined to live up to the reputation of his war hero grandfather.

The teenager, who was named after his courageous relative, was said to be a little sunburned following his ordeal but was hydrated and otherwise well.

His mother, Claire Derry, said the chance discovery of packets of contact lenses in his rucksack helped sustain him in temperatures of around 40C (104F). The lenses had previously been placed in the bag by Mr Woodhead's father, Peter.

The backpacker, who is set on joining the armed forces, also drank his own urine in a desperate bid to keep going.

Ms Derry, 54, told how she feared her son may have died in horrific circumstances, believing he may have succumbed to dehydration or been bitten by a snake. But as she flew out to Australia to join the hunt for her son, she was passed a message from the plane's captain telling her he had been found.

She told ITV News: "I sobbed, absolutely sobbed and I jumped up and hugged the air hostesses and the captain. To be honest I was beginning to fear the worst. It's been the worst three days of my life, by a long way, since 5.30am Tuesday morning when two policemen knocked on my front door and told me they'd got a message from Australia and told me my son was missing."

Mr Woodhead's family said the teenager, a keen long-distance runner, owed his life to rescue workers who launched a helicopter search of the region after he was reported missing from Upshot Station, near the town of Longreach.

The former Brighton College student, from Richmond upon Thames, Surrey, was on taken for a medical assessment before he was transferred to a hospital in Longreach. It is unclear whether Mr Woodhead, who planned to visit Thailand and trek through the Himalayas, will continue on his backpacking adventure.

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