By Nelson Groom
A dream holiday became a nightmare for a pair of British backpackers who cheated death when they flipped their car in the Australian outback.
Pals Brad Warren, 21, and 22-year-old Oliver Walker were seriously injured when they lost control of their Toyota Rav 4 when it skidded on sand while they drove through the South Australian desert last week.
Oliver, from Lockerley, Hampshire, was left bloodied and unconscious after he was thrown from the window of the vehicle while Somerset local Brad, who was behind the wheel, was temporarily half-blinded by a scratch to his eye.
The mates, who are on a three month trip Down Under for their gap year, feared they would die as they waited for hours on the desolate 620km Oodnadatta Track without seeing another motorist.
They were forced to build a tent to shelter from the desert’s sweltering heat but were miraculously rescued by a passing couple who drove past them just before midnight and stopped to help.
Brad, a recent Geology graduate, said: “When we started rolling, I closed my eyes and thought ‘you’re dying, you just have to let this happen’.
“Next thing I was crawling out the wreckage to find Ollie lying face down.
“He was bloody and unconscious: I thought he was dead for about 20 seconds.
“I rolled him over to try and give him CPR, and just then he made a groan. It was a huge relief, but just then I lost vision in my right eye.
“We were very, very lucky. There was definitely a high chance of death from this sort of accident, so the injuries we escaped with are very fortunate.”
What followed was a surge of survival instincts, with the friends dressing their open wounds and building a tent to keep watch for passing traffic.
Help came two hours later from rescuers James Lescohier and Laura Matthews, a couple who incredibly had both a medical background and a satellite phone.
After they called for help, the backpackers were rushed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital by Royal Flying Doctors plane where they were treated for their injuries.
Biochemistry graduate Oliver suffered fractured ribs, grazes and a punctured lung, while Brad is undergoing tests for a scraped cornea but the friends have both now been discharged from hospital.
The pair thanked their rescuers and said though they are rattled they would not let the accident put an end to their plans to continuing travelling around Australia.
Brad said: “James and Laura were so good to us, they saved our lives.
“The car and our possessions are ruined, but it’s very good to be alive. That’s the main thing we’re taking away from this.”
A spokesperson for The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) confirmed: “The Marree-based RFDS Emergency Ambulance and Remote Area Nurse were the first to arrive at the scene after the single-vehicle accident was reported by a passing motorist.
“When the RFDS aircraft departed the William Creek airstrip this evening one patient was in stable condition with suspected neck and spinal injuries; the second patient remained in a serious-but-stable condition with head, neck and chest injuries.
“The pair were being airlifted by an aeromedical crew and a 700km flight to the RFDS Adelaide Base and were subsequently transfer to Royal Adelaide Hospital.”