Father rationed food to keep sons alive in outback

16/06/2019 Posted by admin

Ethan and Timothy Van Lonkhuyzen were missing with their father for 11 days and are recovering in hospital after being found. Photo: Supplied Steven Van Lonkhuyzen and his sons were found at Expedition National Park where they were stranded for 11 days. Photo: Queensland Police

A Brisbane bayside man stranded for 11 days in outback Queensland with his two young sons has been praised for his resourcefulness in keeping the trio alive.

Steven Van Lonkhuyzen rationed what little food he had packed for an intended four day camping trip to feed Ethan, 7, and Timothy, 5, after his Mitsubishi Pajero became bogged in remote Expedition National Park, south of Emerald, on December 11.

He also used plastic containers to make the most of heavy rainfall, which kept the trio hydrated, a critical element of surviving recent humidity according to police search co-ordinator Acting Superintendent Mick Bianchi.

He said they were down to their last slices of bread when grazier Tom Wagner found them about 3.30pm Sunday, after mounting a one-man search following widespread media reports of their disappearance.

“We were very concerned about their welfare. It was very hot and humid,” Acting Superintendent Bianchi said.

“Steven told me they had some water with them in the car but that they were lucky there was lots of rain while they were stuck out there.

“He put a plastic container out and he thinks he caught about 40 litres of water.”

It was originally intended that the trio would stay at Mr Wagner’s home on Sunday night, however the boys were admitted to Taroom Hospital as a precautionary measure due to starvation.

Acting Superintendent Bianchi said they remained in hospital on Monday.

“The boys have lost some weight and are a bit emaciated but they’ll be nursed back to health within a few days,” he said.

Their father and national park rangers are working to extract the bogged vehicle.

Acting Superintendent Bianchi also praised Mr Wagner for mounting a search for the trio, after remembering seeing the vehicle enter the national park on December 11.

“I would like to thank Mr Wagner, who managed to find them off his own bat,” Acting Supt Bianchi said.

“It’s pretty indicative of the way country people pitch in and help each other.”

Mr Wagner’s discovery of the trio came just hours after police re-issued a plea for outback travellers to keep an eye out for them.

About 1pm on Sunday police said they were contemplating an air search, after an extensive ground search had failed to find a trace of them.

Soon after news of the trio being found alive on Sunday broke, Acting Superintendent Owen Elloy said they were extremely lucky Mr anger went searching for them.

“Somebody’s looking after them,” he said.

He said the area they were discovered in, known as the Tin Hut, was one a human footprint had barely touched and was well outside mobile phone reception areas.

“The Tin Hut, if you searched it on Google you wouldn’t find it, it’s a piece of land normally visited only by cattle. It’s black soil country, very soft, even police officers who are extremely experienced are having trouble getting in there,” he said.

The heavily-forested area would have made even their discovery by air a slim chance, Acting Superintendent Ellory said.

Mr Lonkhuyzen, Ethan and Timothy left their home at Lota, on Brisbane’s bayside, on December 11, intending to arrive in Cairns by December 15, after following an inland route.

The 37-year-old was last seen filling his vehicle at a service station in Miles, 330 kilometres west of Brisbane, that day and became stranded in the national park later that day.

His wife and the boys’ mother raised the alarm when the trio failed to arrive in Cairns by the scheduled date.

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