Father rationed food, collected water to keep boys alive

Steven Van Lonkhuyzen and his sons were found at Expedition National Park where they were stranded for 11 days. Photo: Queensland Police
Steven Van Lonkhuyzen and his sons were found at Expedition National Park where they were stranded for 11 days. Photo: Queensland Police

A MAN stranded for 11 days in outback Queensland with his two young sons has been praised for his resourcefulness in keeping the trio alive.

Steven Van Lonkhuyzen rationed what little food he had packed for an intended four day camping trip to feed Ethan, 7, and Timothy, 5, after his Mitsubishi Pajero became bogged in remote Expedition National Park, south of Emerald, on December 11.

He also used plastic containers to make the most of heavy rainfall, which kept the trio hydrated, a critical element of surviving recent humidity according to police search co-ordinator Acting Superintendent Mick Bianchi.

He said they were down to their last slices of bread when grazier Tom Wagner found them about 3.30pm Sunday, after mounting a one-man search following widespread media reports of their disappearance.   

"We were very concerned about their welfare. It was very hot and humid," Acting Superintendent Bianchi said.

"Steven told me they had some water with them in the car but that they were lucky there was lots of rain while they were stuck out there.

"He put a plastic container out and he thinks he caught about 40 litres of water."

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Mr Van Lonkhuyzen told 9NEWS they were unsure if anyone heard their calls for help.

"We didn't know for so long if anyone knew we were here or was even looking," he said.

Stranded, they set up camp, desperately hoping someone would find them.

With little food they survived on rainwater.

"We just managed our water well and talked each other through it, I was never worried," Mr Van Lonkhuyzen said.

"I know from the outside it was a far more distressing situation not knowing but we knew we were safe."


Christmas miracle as dad, boys found after 11 days

A GRAZIER, tending to his cattle and searching for missing father Steven Van Lonkhuyzen and his two young son, located them safe and well this afternoon.


Ethan and Timothy Van Lonkhuyzen were missing with their dad for 11 days.
Ethan and Timothy Van Lonkhuyzen were missing with their dad for 11 days.


Police said that around 3.30pm the grazier located the trio and their vehicle, which was severely bogged, in Expedition National Park, approximately 300 kilometres from where they were last seen re-fuelling in Miles on Thursday December 11.

A Police Officer and a local National Parks and Wildlife ranger winched themselves across a washed out road.

The missing man and his sons were being taken to the homestead of their rescuer where police from Taroom will pick them up and return them to Taroom.

They are in good spirits, but will be medically examined as a precaution. It was likely that they will stay in Taroom overnight.

An attempt will be made to recover the vehicle on Monday as it is severely bogged in a very remote and inaccessible location.

Acting Superintendent Mick Bianchi, District Officer for the South West Police District praised the efforts of all involved and said it highlighted the community spirit that country people are renowned for.

"People from across rural Queensland have taken this story to heart and have helped police in many different ways in our search for the Van Lonkhuyzen family.

"We've had farmers and graziers searching their properties, local store owners checking to see if they had passed by or dropped in, mining companies and mustering helicopters checking lands, as well as Park Rangers searching parks and camp sites.

"The response has been outstanding and I thank the community, and the media, for their efforts and support," Superintendent Bianchi said.

Steven Van Lonkhuyzen was camping in outback Queensland with his two sons. Photo: Supplied
Steven Van Lonkhuyzen was camping in outback Queensland with his two sons. Photo: Supplied

The South West Police District, covering a land mass roughly one third the size of Queensland, and 60 police divisions, was the central focus for the search.

Steven Van Lonkhuyzen, 37, and his two sons aged 7 and 5, were last seen at a Miles service station on Thursday December 11 after leaving their Lota home earlier that day to commence an inland drive to Cairns.

Acting Superintendent Bianchi made special mention of the efforts made by police from the South West District to locate the family saying officers searched vast areas of rugged and remote land, often in harsh conditions and extreme weather.

"The search area included several hundred thousand square kilometres of land, with some areas impassible due to localised flooding and swollen creeks.

"Police from all 60 divisions in the South West District have been involved to varying degrees in this search. We mobilised police resources far and wide which not only included police patrols but officers contacting businesses, companies, farmers, graziers, roadhouses and others across outback Queensland to see if there had been any sightings or to alert them to the plight of Steven and the boys.

"I am extremely proud of not only the efforts of our local communities but all of my officers involved in this search, as well as police from the Central and Northern Police Regions who also committed significant policing resources to this search.

"We are all very thankful that we have a happy outcome," Acting Superintendent Bianchi said.

Topics:  editors picks grazier missing police

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