Briton survived Outback by drinking contact lens fluid

SYDNEY: A British backpacker who endured three days missing in Australia's punishing Outback survived by drinking his contact lens fluid and urine, his mother said Sunday.

Samuel Woodhead, 18, was found Friday on the sprawling remote property Upshot Station, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) from the far-flung central Queensland town of Longreach, from where he had set off on Tuesday.

He became lost in extremely harsh terrain and mother Claire Derry credited his training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for his survival in the remote and unforgiving Outback with little more than sunburn and dehydration.

"He tried drinking his own urine and he wasn't able to cope much with that, so he drank tiny sips of the contact lens fluid," Derry told the Sun-Herald newspaper.

He lost 15 kilograms over three days and nights and Derry said she and her son were both incredulous that he'd been found alive.

"Sam is incredibly fit, that was something I clung on to," she said, adding that her son wanted to go into the Royal Marines or the army.

"He'd not long ago been on an appropriateness course for Sandhurst... so I knew he had a lot of knowledge to draw on."

Australian authorities had held grave fears for the man's survival in a region where heat, a lack of water, venomous snakes and the possibility of injury could prove deadly.

Planes, motorbikes, and four-wheel drives were being used in the search, with neighbours also combing the area on foot and horseback and an emergency services helicopter dispatched with medical staff.

When he was found Derry said her son told her his rescuers said "they normally find people out here with their eyes pecked out.

"All he could say was 'Mum, just thank these wonderful people. I've loved Australia from the minute I arrived here. These people are extraordinary'."

Derry was on board a flight from Britain to Australia and had been fearing the worst when she learned that her son had been found alive. She celebrated by embracing the flight crew and popping some champagne.

"One of the airline staff came up to me and he was smiling. He handed me this piece of paper saying Sam was found alive and well," she said.

- AFP/ir

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