Police drone finds Rockingham woman lost for eight hours in remote scrub near Yalgoo
Sue Buckless started to worry when she found herself deep in the endless scrub of the plains around remote Yalgoo.
But she knew she was in strife when she lost sight of distant ranges she had been using as a landmark to help find her campsite.
“The further in I went, the deeper and thicker it got,” Ms Buckless says.
“And I couldn’t find these ranges and I thought, yeah, now I’m in trouble.”
In an interview with ABC Radio Perth host Nadia Mitsopoulos on Thursday, Ms Buckless described the panic that set in at the beginning of an eight-hour ordeal that left her alone in the remote Midwest.
She had been camping and prospecting with her husband and a friend in bushland about eight kilometres east of the Golden Grove mine site east of Geraldton.
On Sunday morning, the Rockingham woman decided to head back to their caravan while the others kept prospecting and set off on a trail back to the campsite.
But when she lost sight of those ranges in the distance, she knew she had lost the track.
Nothing but bush and red dirt
I started to panic,” Ms Buckless said.
“But then I thought, no, don’t [panic], just maybe head back the way you’d come.
“But by that time, I’d already done too many zigzags … I was going in a completely different direction.”
She managed to call triple-0 but could only describe her surroundings as “bush and red dirt” without any landmarks in sight.
Ms Buckless said the emergency services were initially not able to pinpoint her location through the GPS on her phone, so she suggested they call her husband who could give them a starting point for their search.
After waiting three hours in one place she decided to follow a riverbed she thought she recognised, but soon found herself in deep scrub again.
Meanwhile, police from Geraldton, Yalgoo and Morawa were heading to the area.
Finally, she was able to share her coordinates by using the maps on her phone.
From there, a police drone operator was able to pinpoint her location.
Police forced to hike to rescue site
An image released by WA Police captures the moment Ms Buckless realised she had been found.
“They said, if you’ve got anything that you can wave and attract the drone, do it,” she said.
“I had a white drink bottle and I thought, well, I’ll wave that around as well.”
Ms Buckless was finally found by police about 6:30pm about three kilometres from the campsite.
Midwest Gascoyne Police District Inspector Jayd Morawski said the area was inaccessible by vehicle so officers hiked in to meet Ms Buckless.
“The sense of relief I think that both we felt, as police officers and that the missing person actually felt when the two parties came together … was absolutely fantastic,” he said.
The officers walked Ms Buckless back to her campsite where she was greeted with “waiting arms”, he said.
“I think she had a welcome beer at that point in time,” he said.
Police said the incident was a safety reminder for anyone planning on camping and bushwalking to carry a personal locator beacon or satellite phone as part of their planning and preparation.
Ms Buckless said she plans to follow that advice.
“Maybe I’ll take our GPS with us for next time,” she said.