Missing backpacker ‘drank contact lens solution’

Samuel Woodhead. Picture: Contributed
Samuel Woodhead. Picture: Contributed
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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 said.

Sam 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 had 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.

The lenses had been placed in the bag by Sam’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.

“I sobbed, absolutely sobbed, and I jumped up and hugged the air hostesses and the captain,” she said.

“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

5:30 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.”

She said the fact he had been training for a career in the armed services was likely to have equipped him well for survival in the hostile environment.

“My father was a war hero and Sam was named after him and he’s always wanted to live up to that sort of reputation,” she said.

“He’s fearless and he wants to go into the marines or the army and it was because he was training ready for his interview with them that he was trying to keep fit all the time.

“He’s watched programmes and videos on the marines and that’s why he would have known a lot about survival, I think, and that’s why we were fairly hopeful, but we got less hopeful as time went on.

“He’s sunburnt and he can’t eat at the moment and he’s lost a lot of weight but apart from that, I understand, he managed to smile when they picked him up.”

Ms Derry added: “We understand he had no water for three days so he survived on his own urine and some contact lens solution he had with him, but that was all he had over the last three nights.”

News of his survival came as it emerged another man who had gone missing in the same area for a shorter period of time died of dehydration.

Sam’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, 130km from the town of Longreach.

The former Brighton College student, from Richmond upon Thames, in Surrey, was taken for a medical assessment yesterday before he was transferred to a hospital in Longreach.

His sister Rebecca announced her brother had been found on Facebook.

She wrote: “We have been told that they have found Sam!! We have no information on his condition or where he was found yet, so keep your fingers crossed.”

She later said his injuries were no worse than “minor sunstroke, dehydration and chapped lips”.

Sam’s father broke down as he described the agonising wait for news as rescue teams searched for his son by land and air.

“The word ‘nightmare’ these days is much misused,” he told ITV’s Daybreak. “This has been a true nightmare.”

It is unclear whether Sam, who planned to visit Thailand and trek through the Himalayas, will continue on his backpacking adventure.