A diabetic bushwalker had a lucky escape on Thursday, finding his way back to civilisation, after becoming lost overnight.
The Strathfield man was due to take his diabetes medication. He and his wife set out on a three hour bushwalk from Blaxland along the Florabella Pass Track on Wednesday when they took a wrong turn and ended up sleeping in a cave in 5 degree overnight temperature.
An extensive search for Hyung Lee, 65, and his wife, Kyunghye Lee, 63, involved a rescue helicopter, paramedics, Blue Mountains police rescue and local police.
They meant to walk to Warrimoo but ended up in the opposite direction. The couple walked into the backyard of a home at Cowdery Street, Glenbrook, about 7.45am on Thursday, July 13. The owners of the home rang police immediately.
“At some point in time they became lost,” Blue Mountains Local Area Commander, Superintendent Paul Albury said. Supt Albury confirmed the man had left without his tablet medication.
“They had warm clothes and food ...they exhausted their water overnight. They went walking at first light until they were found. For people who aren’t experienced bushwalkers they did everything right you could have coped for [after becoming lost].”
Police said the couple left their Inner West home yesterday morning and travelled to the Mountains by train. When they did not return home their daughter reported them missing just after 7pm.
“Rescue Squad ..walked the entire walking trail .. we searched until about 2 this morning. We had SES, RFS, trail bikes ... but we could not locate them. The search was set to resume at 8am.”
However police were “extremely happy with the outcome”.
“The gentleman had diabetes and high blood pressure so there were some concerns he had fallen ill … they are very well considering the ordeal they’ve been through. It’s quite fortunate the temperatures weren’t as cold as normal.”
The house in Glenbrook where they sought help is five kilometres from where they started their walk at Blaxland Railway Station. The search involved local police, Blue Mountains police rescue, NSW Ambulance paramedics and a Ambulance rescue helicopter.
Supt Albury said Blue Mountains police had already done 70 rescues this year. Only 500 people were lodging their treks annually through the Track Your Trek initiative which started eight years ago by police and national parks. While the initiative had made an enormous impact on rescues, it was still “miniscule” compared to the 2 million visitors who came to the Mountains every year.
The couple did not have an emergency beacon [EPIRB or PLB]. There are about 20 EPIRBS available on loan combined at Katoomba and Springwood stations, as well as National Parks.
“Sadly they are rarely used,” Supt Albury said.
“People preparing to undertake treks should lodge their intended trail, they will be provided with a personal beacon and if they get into trouble we can immediately get to you.”
“People from overseas don’t understand the perils, how vast the area is and how quickly things can go wrong … and people from other parts of Sydney do things impromptu. Locals prepare much better.”
There have been seven [beacon] activations in the past eight years of the Track the Trek initiative and all have been successfully found, Supt Albury said.
“Tell people where you are going, stay to the trails, take extra provisions, be as prepared as possible,” he said.