An Australian father didn’t believe for one second that his missing son was a runaway.
Remembering a serious car crash from years ago and acting on a hunch, Tony Lethbridge hired a helicopter to fly over a nearby highway surrounded by brush and culverts.
His 17-year-old boy, Samuel, was found trapped in his car, which was crumpled in tall trees and shrubs near Pacific Highway, about 12 miles from his Lake Macquarie home.
The teen had to be cut from his vehicle, where he had been trapped for some 30 hours with broken bones.
Tony Lethbridge had earlier gone to police to report his boy hadn’t come home after a Saturday night out with friends.
“When I saw the police, they thought he’d run away. I said that’s not Samuel. When he doesn’t show up or phone, something’s seriously wrong,” the dad told The Associated Press.
“I understand that they’ve got a lot to do and they hear this every day, but I took matters into my own hands and was thinking all night that tomorrow morning, I’m just going to get a helicopter and go looking for him because we’re running out of time. “It’s been long enough,” he said.
The father recalled an automobile accident about five years ago, in which a motorist had been stranded in the same area and died five days later.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen,” he said.
So he went to Skyline Aviation Group on Monday morning to rent a helicopter, saying he had about $800 in his wallet.
“He came in looking anxious and somewhat fatigued and said he needed a helicopter bad,” pilot and co-owner Lee Mitchell recalled. The dad asked if the cash he had on him would be enough, “and we said, ‘Yes, it would,'” Mitchell said.
The aircraft took off with Samuel’s uncle, Michael Lethbridge, on board because the teen’s dad gets air sick. Before long, they saw a wrecked car near the highway.
“I really didn’t want to go. I was scared of what I’d find,” the uncle said. As I got closer I seen Sam’s head move,” Michael Lethbridge said. “I went from being terrified to ecstatic in a couple of seconds.”
First responders cut Samuel from the wreckage and transported him to a hospital.
His sister, Megan, was overcome by tears and said she “felt so much relief that he is alive.”