Missing mother found alive after seven days in bushland
A mother of four who drank puddle water to survive a week lost in the north Queensland bush has been found just as police were due to make a public appeal.
Rikki Mitchell's ordeal began when she went missing after becoming disoriented near the Reid River, south of Townsville, while going for a swim on May 2.
It ended on Wednesday when she came across an all-terrain vehicle and was found by a man on his property, before the man took her doubled on the back to a search party command post.
Police say Ms Mitchell and her partner, both Charters Towers residents, stopped at a rest bay by the Flinders Highway for a number of hours before her partner went to visit a friend nearby and she walked down to Reid River for a swim.
Ms Mitchell had not returned when her partner came back about 4.30pm.
The 38-year-old's partner raised the alarm with police on Thursday before authorities and SES members began a land and air search on Friday in heavy bushland.
Ms Mitchell was found disoriented and with minor injuries seven days after going missing, just before police were due to speak to the media about the search.
Detective Inspector Jason Shepherd said Ms Mitchell drank puddle water to survive.
"The longer this search went, the less optimistic we were," he told reporters.
"I imagine there would be people who disappear for this sort of period of time in this land. There will be times when you're doubting yourself and just want to sit down and give up.
"What it does show is if people are lost in the bush, don't sit down and give up, keep trying to find signs of life somewhere or someone who can help you out, and (Ms Mitchell) ended up coming back relatively close to our search area."
The woman survived fluctuating temperatures as the region varied from humid heat to a cold snap in recent days.
Insp Shepherd said the missing mother heard the sound of the highway and followed her ears before stumbling upon an all-terrain vehicle.
"She said to me this morning she finally came across a vehicle track and got to a point where she could hear the roadway," he said.
"She borrowed a four-wheeler and came to the highway before a member of the public found her.
"I believe (the vehicle) is owned by a landholder in the vicinity."
Ms Mitchell was taken to hospital in a stable condition.