May 21, 2019

Two men survive desert ordeal after their SUV explodes

Great balls of fire - the burnt out remains of the mens Holden SUV.

Two men have survived a four day ordeal in the desert in Western Australia after their SUV exploded leaving them with no supplies.

Sergeant Julie Hansen of the Western Australia Police said the two men were driving in near Jackie Junction, about 85 kilometres north of Warburton last Wednesday afternoon when their SUV caught fire without warning.

Heat from the exhaust had caused a build-up of spinifex (a type of long grass) under the Holden Rodeo 2007 four-wheel-drive to ignite, and the fuel tank and a 44-gallon drum onboard exploded.

Sergeant Hansen said the blast sparked a grass fire, but the two men managed to escape from the vehicle before it blew up.

The two men – one of whom had a prosthetic leg – found themselves in a life threatening situation when their water, food, satellite phone and emergency beacon, were destroyed with the vehicle.

Enduring extreme weather conditions, with soaring heat during the day and near zero temperatures at night the men kept warm by burning spinifex and lying on the warm ash.

They had to spend almost two days without water after discovering nearby rock holes had dried out and the first opportunity to gather water only came with a heavy rainfall on Friday night. They combined the rainwater with nuts gathered from native plants to sustain themselves.

One of the men, a 58-year-old prospector, eventually walked 60 kilometres towards Warburton to get into mobile phone range, where he contacted a friend about 10.15am last Saturday for assistance.

His companion, a 61-year-old Warburton man, could not accompany him because he was hampered on the rough terrain by his prosthetic leg.

The information the man provided on the phone was scant, but he indicated that he was about 40 kilometres north of Warburton on the Gun Barrel Highway.

Warburton police launched an extensive air and ground search in collaboration with the local community to find the missing pair.

A large area of some 2500 square kilometres was scoured by police before they located a man at 7pm on Saturday walking south on a track about 25 kilometres north of Warburton. Sergeant Hansen said he was in good health and glad to see police.

He directed officers to a small track north of the Gun Barrel Highway where they found his companion about 15 kilometres from the burn site about two hours later, sitting at a fire and waving a burning stick for attention.

The two survivors were cleared by medical staff after a check-up and reunited with their families and friends.

Newswarped thanks everyone concerned for a hapy ending. Well done chaps on beating the odds. It probably helped that your were not tourists.