British backpacker survived outback ordeal by drinking contact lens solution and urine

18-year-old Briton is found disoriented and sunburnt three days after disappearing

Sydney

A British backpacker who went missing for three days in the harsh terrain and searing heat of the Queensland outback survived by drinking contact lens solution, his family said today.

Sam Woodhead, 18, was sunburnt and disoriented, but otherwise unharmed, when a helicopter spotted him yesterday afternoon in bushland on a remote cattle property where he had been working as a jackaroo, or farm hand. He had not been seen since Tuesday afternoon, when he left the homestead for a run, and grave fears had been held for his safety.

Mr Woodhead, from Kingston upon Thames, in Surrey, was flown to hospital in Longreach, about 80 miles from the farm, Upton Station, where he was put on a drip and underwent tests. His mother, Claire, who flew to Australia yesterday to join the search, told ITV News that she understood he had survived by drinking his own urine as well as saline contact lens fluid.

The boxes of lenses had been packed in an outer pocket of his rucksack by his father, Peter, before he left England, and Mr Woodhead had forgotten to remove them. He took the rucksack with him on his run, and found the lenses after drinking his one bottle of water.

His disappearance had sparked a mammoth search involving scores of emergency workers and locals, who scoured the sprawling, 3,200-acre property in helicopters and light planes as well as on quad bikes, horseback and on foot. The rescue effort had been hampered by the fact that no one knew what direction he had set off on.

Mrs Woodhead received the news that he had been found while in the air between Singapore and Brisbane. “Three hours before landing, the captain came and said ‘we have some good news for you’,” she told ITN. “He handed me a piece of paper that said ‘your son Sam has been found alive and well’.

“I just sobbed, absolutely sobbed, and then jumped up and hugged the air hostesses and the captain. It’s been the worst three days of my life.”

Alex Dorr, a pilot with the North Queensland Rescue Helicopter, said Mr Woodhead – who is in Australia on a gap year – was lucky to be found alive in the “harsh and unforgiving” terrain. Daytime temperatures have reached nearly 40C in recent days, and there is little shelter or shade in the area. Waterways have dried up. Venomous snakes posed another threat.

Mr Dorr said: “Not that long ago, we had a guy who was missing for a much shorter time, and he passed away from dehydration.”

Queensland Police said Mr Woodhead – a health and fitness fanatic who hopes to join the army after his gap year – was “in a fairly good condition …. safe and well apart from suffering a little bit of sunburn”.

The teenager, who is reportedly a fan of the Bear Grylls survival TV shows, arrived in Australia at about Christmas and planned to head home in October.

His sister, Rebecca, an Edinburgh University student who turned 21 yesterday, said her only birthday wish had been for him to be found. “I don’t think any of us have slept,” she said. “They have reported him as an 18-year-old man, but he’s not a man, he’s my little brother.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever