Stranded man lived on leaves, rainwater
Stranded man lived on leaves, rainwater

A man drank rainwater from puddles and nibbled on the leaves of a wild plant to suppress his hunger while walking about 70km for help when he and his family were stranded by torrential rain in the remote Kimberley.

Larry Read was found by a passing car late on Monday after leaving his brother and five young nieces and nephews with their broken-down Nissan Patrol about 175km east of Halls Creek early on Saturday.

"I'm pretty sure anyone put in the same situation would have done it," he said. "I just put one foot in front of the other."

He admitted by the third day he was "feeling pretty haggard" but was worried for his eldest nephew, who needed regular medication for kidney problems.

Early yesterday, his brother John Gilboy, unsure if Mr Read had raised the alarm, swam across a flooded river to Nicholson Station for help.

A helicopter yesterday rescued Mr Gilboy and his children, aged three to 11, from the four-wheel-drive and took them to Halls Creek for medical checks.

The group became stuck on Friday afternoon when their vehicle had engine problems in the floodwaters while driving from Darwin to Halls Creek on the unsealed Duncan Road.

Torrential rain over the past seven days made parts of the road dangerous and impassable.

Mr Read said he set out for help early on Saturday and spent much of the muddy trek through flooded creeks in underpants and bare feet, carrying his heavy steel cap boots and waterlogged jeans.

Exhausted, sunburnt and hungry, he was found by a youth worker from the Ringer Soak community, more than 100km from Halls Creek.

The rescued children arrive at Halls Creek.

Nicholson Station resident Lee Scott-Virtue said she, husband Dean Goodgame and Kimberley Toadbusters researchers at the station tried to take their vehicle with food, water and medication back across the flooded river to help Mr Gilboy yesterday but it was too dangerous.

She said the man had arrived at Nicholson about 7.30am, holding on to a barbed-wire fence as he crossed the flooded river to stop himself being swept away. Anxious to get back to his children, he swam back with a 20-litre container of fuel.

The group had enough water and food for three days but were running out and did not have enough medication for the 11-year-old or for two other children, who were asthmatics.

Mr Read said yesterday he and his brother, who were both from Darwin but had lived in Halls Creek for several years, knew the area and thought they were prepared but still got into trouble.

He thanked police, the State Emergency Service and everyone else who helped them. "It was a really good outcome and I'm really appreciative - they are true champions," he said.

The West Australian

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