The sister of a teenager who was trapped in his car for 30 hours with a bone sticking out of his leg and multiple fractured limbs has told of her family’s extraordinary bid to find him, including hiring a helicopter.
Megan Lethbridge, 19, from Belmont, NSW, became concerned when she could not locate her 17-year-old brother Sam on Sunday evening and went to police about 8pm.
‘I asked if there had been any accidents,’ Ms Lethbridge told Daily Mail Australia. ‘I asked “is there anything you can do?”.
‘They told me Sam had probably just run away. I said “that’s not him. Something is really wrong”.’
Ms Lethbridge had last been in contact with her brother about 12.30am on Sunday after she finished her bar job and had been unable to find him after contacting his friends that afternoon.
Ms Lethbridge’s parents Tony and Lee were on a weekend away in Canberra, so she took on the responsibility of finding her brother.
Her parents arrived home about 1am Monday and also went to Belmont police station but were not satisfied with what was being done searching for their son.
‘Dad said as soon as he walked out “we’re gong to hire a helicopter and find him”,’ Ms Lethbridge said.
‘He said “I’m not going to just sit here and lose him”.’
Mr Lethbridge remembered there had been an accident about five years ago near where Sam’s car was eventually found and wanted to search there.
Sam was believed to have been driving from Gosford, on the Central Coast, to the Lethbridge family home at Blacksmiths, on Lake Macquarie, when he left the road after 6am on Sunday.
On Monday, Mr Lethbridge hired a helicopter which went up with pilot Lee Mitchell and Mr Lethbridge’s brother Michael about 9.45am.
Mr Mitchell, of Skyline Aviation Group, swung into action when the Lethbridges came to see him at Lake Macquarie Airport and hired his Robinson R44 helicopter.
‘My job as far as being a pilot and looking for a car is the easy job,’ Mr Mitchell said.
‘The father had the insight to hire the helicopter in the first place and go looking for his son.
‘It was fortunate he had an idea where to start looking. He was fairly adamant it was somewhere between the Doyalson turnoff on the M1 and Swansea.’
He was right. Mr Mitchell and Michael Lethbridge spotted Sam’s vehicle after about 10 minutes in the air.
‘It was fairly obvious from the air and invisible from the road,’ Mr Mitchell said.
The pilot called 000 and the helicopter hovered over the crash site.
‘It was a bit of a mission accomplished for me to be able to find the vehicle and at that point it’s important to remain composed in all the excitement,’ Mr Mitchell said.
At 10.01am Michael Lethbridge sent a text message to his brother to say he had spotted Sam’s crashed car off the Pacific Highway near Murrays Beach, south of Newcastle.
When Michael Lethbridge was able to reach the crashed vehicle he could see that Sam had survived the night. He had a bone sticking out of his leg.
Emergency services including ambulance and fire crews were called to the scene.
Sam was trapped in the driver’s seat with a compound fracture to his right femur and fractures to his ankle and arm. He was freed about midday, Ms Lethbridge said.
Ms Lethbridge wanted to thank Mr Mitchell and motorist Billy Creanor who stopped to render first aid.
Sam was given pain medication during the rescue operation and was stabilised by paramedics.
NSW Ambulance superintendent Jeff Atkins said: ‘When we got to him he was pretty dehydrated. But his clinical observations were quite good which was amazing.’
‘He then had to be carried back to the highway.’
Sam was taken by ambulance to the John Hunter Hospital where he remains. He had suffered an ankle injury, a fractured forearm and a compound fracture to his femur.
Superintendent Atkins said the teenager would need to undergo a ‘world of physio’ to regain full use of his injured leg.