Search and Rescue

Part 6 of 7

Stinson Crash survivor, John Proud. Photo: Supplied.
Stinson Crash survivor, John Proud. Photo: Supplied.

Now they were underway, and the introduction was a strong one for the party, a creek crossing as wide as a cricket pitch is long, and thigh deep and floored with slippery boulders like pumpkins.  

There were miles of that ahead.  

They came out of the creek into a wall of raspberry and wild ginger, across big wet logs and back into the stream bed, try the opposite bank only to get onto the side of a cliffy edge, down to terra firma again with the help of vines.  

Men fell full length in the water.  Language, the only outlet for their feelings got a lot thicker as they went on into the night.

Westray’s body was carried from the creek to where he now lies.  It was 3am when the party left the camp fire, 10am found them still in the creek bed.  

The country Bernard crossed in three hours took eight hours to retrace.  

Doctor Lawlor did not rest when he arrived at the crash site but went straight to work on Proud’s leg, less than an hour later he declared Proud’s leg could be saved. The maggots had eaten away the rotting flesh.

In the meantime others of the crash site party had begun cutting a track back along the ridge top towards John Buchanan.  

Some of John’s men had gone back to civilization for the night, but a band of men with Syd Smith in front came through to the crash site party.  

Syd, himself an old ‘Digger’, who worked like a tiger, looked like others did, like men who had done five days’ work in one day, and they had.  

Among others who joined the crash site party for the night was Charles Burgess, the Hermit of Lamington, who had done great scouting work for John Buchanan’s party.  

Late comers to the smoky fire at the crash site brought news of an army of men assembling at the foot of the range.  

There was a canteen started by local women, and a prominent Beaudesert business, Enright’s had sent, free of charge, a truck load of provisions.  There was an army of reporters, photographers, movie newsmen, radio announcers and experts.  

An hour before dawn Bob Stephens called for volunteers to carry billy water for breakfast and an atmosphere of cheerfulness spread through the men, partly at the prospect of tea and tucker but mainly at the proximity of daylight and action.  

Steadily and without fuss first Binstead’s and then Proud’s stretchers started off along the tunnel that stretched for miles through the wet green tangle.

 To be continued.

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