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A British man wandered into the remote outback in Australia after becoming separated from his girlfriend and survived for three days by eating bugs and flowers and burying himself in the sand – a technique he learnt from watching Bear Grylls on television.
Following an extensive search, Anthony Collis, 32, was discovered barefoot, sunburnt and “very thirsty” in a rugged stretch of the Pilbara region in north-west Australia.
He disappeared during a journey with his girlfriend Debbie Blomfield, 39, from their home city of Perth to Darwin.
About half-way into the 2,500-mile trip through some of Australia’s most isolated territory, the pair reportedly had an argument and separated, abandoning their utility vehicle which apparently became stuck in the dry red sand.
Ms Blomfield walked for five miles and arrived, dehydrated and disoriented, at a remote mining camp, where she reported that Mr Collis was missing.
An ensuing search involving planes, helicopters, four-wheel drives and Aboriginal trackers promptly found their vehicle and then discovered some of Mr Collis’s clothing and equipment.
But he did not appear in the heat-detecting devices used by search officials, who assumed he was dead. It emerged later that he did not show up on these devices because he had buried himself in the sand and foliage to keep himself warm during the freezing nights.
Following a three-day search, police officers eventually found him on Sunday after they spotted a trail of footprints in the dirt and then heard him calling out. He was found less than two miles from his vehicle.
“I think he was fairly weak at that point in time but thankfully he was heard,” said Acting Superintendent Garry Kosovich, from Western Australia police.
“He was certainly very thirsty and he was pleased to be found.”
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Mr Collis’s mother Karen declared her relief and thanked local search crews for finding her son.
“Thanks to everybody. My son has been found,” she wrote on Facebook.
“All of you guys out searching, too many to thank individually but you are our heroes. Everybody in the family will be eternally grateful to you all.”
Mr Collis, from the town of Westbury in Wiltshire, has reportedly been living in Australia for several years.
“Because of the way he secured himself [in the dirt], he didn’t show up [on heat-seeking devices],” said Senior Sergeant Bob Scott.
“The indications were that he wasn’t in that search area or he was dead.”
Police are still investigating the reasons for the pair’s decision to separate.
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“He had left the vehicle for reasons we don’t know,” said Acting Superintendent Kosovich.
“Had he remained with the vehicle he would have been located on Friday where the vehicle was found.”
Mr Collis was flown by helicopter to be treated at a hospital in central Western Australia.
The incident prompted a police warning to travellers across the outback to come prepared and not to leave their vehicle.
“It is a reminder to anyone travelling in a remote part of Western Australia, particularly [in] very isolated regions like that, that you should take a sound vehicle, adequate supplies and a satellite phone or [emergency radio beacon],” police said.
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