A British backpacker who went missing in the Australian Outback for more than three days survived by drinking contact lens solution, his mother said.
Samuel Woodhead, 18, disappeared on Tuesday after he set out for a jog from a cattle station in Queensland.
The chance discovery of packets of lenses in his rucksack apparently sustained him in the scorching heat. They had previously been placed in the bag by Mr Woodhead’s father, Peter.
The teenager was said to be a little sunburnt after his ordeal, but was hydrated and otherwise well.
His relieved mother Claire, 54, described how her son survived in the 40C heat.
“His father had packed boxes of contact lenses in his rucksack in an outside pocket and he’d forgotten to take them out,” she said.
“He’s literally lived on those packs for three nights.”
Relatives said the teenager, a keen long-distance runner, owed his life to rescue workers who launched a helicopter search of the desolate region after he was reported missing from near the town of Longreach on Tuesday.
Mrs Woodhead, who travelled out to Australia, said: “I’ve spoken to Sam on the phone and I’m flying out to Longreach tomorrow morning.”
She added: “I’m very, very relieved indeed. I’ve just had the worst three days of my life, and when I got the message from the pilot on the plane [that he had been located], I just cried.”
The former Brighton College student, from Richmond upon Thames, in Surrey, was taken for a medical assessment before being transferred to hospital.
News of his survival came as it emerged another man who went missing in the area for a shorter time had died of dehydration.
Peter Woodhead broke down as he described the wait for news. He told ITV’s Daybreak: “This has been a true nightmare. I would like to put on air the thanks we give to everyone who joined in the search. He owes his life to them.”
Alex Dorr, a pilot with the North Queensland Rescue Helicopter, told the programme he used night-vision cameras to search in the dark.
The region was “harsh and unforgiving”, he said.