Outback tragedy sparks call for stricken travellers to stay with vehicles

Published: January 18, 2024

The tragic death of a 25-year-old man after his vehicle became bogged in Outback Queensland has sparked renewed calls for all remote travellers to be fully prepared for all conditions they may encounter.

The man’s body was about 12 kilometres from the bogged vehicle following a major land and air search near Durham, about 135 kilometres east of Innamincka.

Innamincka Hotel manager Nichelle Hodgson told the Adelaide Advertiser that the most common mistake stricken travellers made was to leave their vehicle.

“Stay with the car. Do not leave the car,” she said. “Make sure you have plenty of water and do not follow Google maps … follow the road signs or go the old style and buy a paper map.”

She also recommended travellers carry an Epirb or personal locator beacon in case of an emergency.

William Creek publican, Trevor Wright, told the Advertiser that searching for bogged or stranded travellers was time consuming, and installing small Wi-Fi cameras on road condition signs could help searchers narrow down the areas.

He said with the wet weather up north and eastern states, and people wanting to see the waters in the Channel Country and Bedourie areas, he expected to do more rescues.

“It is inevitable,” Mr Wright said. “With the erratic weather conditions and Outback roads being closed at the drop of a hat, and if the lows start moving down south, it will happen again.”

He told the Adelaide Advertiser that the average person travelling from Sydney or Melbourne who has only previously driven on bitumen roads, had no idea how dangerous dirt roads can be if they don’t have the information and knowledge on how to drive on them.

“We love people coming out here (to the Outback) and we’re passionate about remote areas, but we also want them to have the safest and most enjoyable experience they can have,” Mr Wright said. “No one gets any pleasure from going out and finding people or being at the scene of a terrible incident.”

  • Do you travel with an Epirb when in remote country? Comment below.

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I have a spot gen4. I have it set up so I can press “I’m here I’m safe” pre recorded text message to hubby every evening and if he hasn’t heard from me in 2days he will alert authorities. I also have the option of the red emergency button.

Why people still drive through floodwaters amazes me as you never know what is below the surface this bridge wash out was taken by me after the 2010 floods on the highway just west of Tenterfield NSW.

flood waters.jpg

We also carry a ‘Find Me Spot’, also small enough to put in your pocket if you want to go bush walking.

Carrying an EPIRB should be mandatory for travellers using remote roads and tracks.It would save thousands of dollars and resources associated with searches and save lives. We always carry one.

It is sad that another life is lost because people do not listen, or drive on roads they have no experience with. How many times must we be told.
Apart from offering shelter, it is much easier to see from the air than a person alone on foot.
What is the answer who knows? Maybe signs  as you enter towards an isolated area, with that very  statement. But how many signs need to be erected before people get the message. Maybe the automobile clubs could run a regular statement in their magazines.    

We have a PLB & Satellite phone with us.
Last May we were camping at May River which is less than 100km from Derby WA & a tourist from overseas asked to borrow a shovel. This was during the afternoon & around 2 hours later I went to look for them as my shovel had not returned.
I found the vehicle on its belly & the 3 Irishmen were at a loss as to how to extract it. First question I asked was had they dropped the air pressures from their tyres & by the blank look I received it was clear they had no idea about travel in remote areas. The vehicle was a hire 4WD Ute & tyres had 55PSI all round.
I was going to drop the pressures but they didn’t have a pressure gauge & certainly no compressor so I opted to tow them out.
I suggested they get a few basic items like a shovel (minimum) before continuing their travels.
I shudder to think about the numbers of travellers who venture into remote areas without the barest of equipment & no understanding of how to survive should things go pear shape!
I believe 4WD vehicle rental companies should be
providing these vehicles with a minimum standard of recovery gear AND instruction on how to use it.
Then of course to stay with their vehicle if they get into strife.

I have a Zoleo and have found it very helpful. Does EMail and TXT, GPS location etc.
Accidently hit SOS when I first got it and within 2 mins received a phone call from a guy in Boston checking on my situation.

We travel with an EPIRB, satellite phone, and 80 channel CB, when we travel anywhere in Australia. I always keep the EPIRB and sat phone in the bag at my feet in case the 4WD rolls and we can’t get out of the car. Also have a window hammer to break window glass in the magazine pocket of the car door in case of emergency.


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