Australian father hires helicopter to find son trapped for 30 hours in car wreck after police say he ‘probably ran away’

An Australian father dismissed a police conclusion that his son had run away, hiring a helicopter instead to trace him to the site of a car crash.

Samuel Lethbridge was saved after 30 hours trapped in a car wreck when his father Tony tracked him down. Samuel had failed to return to the family home at Lake Macquarie on Sunday morning after a Saturday night out with friends in the nearby city of Newcastle. 

"I wasn’t going to let that happen," he said.

Australian teen Samuel LethbridgeCredit:

The teen had dropped off a friend about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from home early Sunday morning before he vanished, the father said.

On Monday morning, Mr Lethbridge hired a helicopter and the car was seen in a ditch off a highway 12 miles away.

"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," Tony Lethbridge told the AP.

"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 added. 

The helicopter used to find himCredit:
 Michael Lethbridge

His son, 17, remained in intensive care in a hospital with multiple fractures two days after the crash.

Lee Mitchell, pilot and part-owner of Skyline Aviation Group at Lake Macquarie, gave the worried father a discount on the helicopter after hearing how worried he was about his son.

Although it usually costs 1,200 Australian dollars  (£693) an hour to hire one of his helicopters, he let the father give what he had on him.

Tony Lethbridge and Michael Lethbridge, father and uncle of Samuel LethbridgeCredit:

"He just said: ‘I’ve got $1,000 (£577) on me, will that be enough?’ and we said: ‘Yes, it would,’" Mitchell said.

Within 15 minutes, they found the young man. 

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Mitchell said he thought it was crucial that the father had hired the helicopter, as it would have been very difficult to see the car from road level, but it was easily spotted from air.

"It’s priceless. If it’s A$1000 I’ve got to pay to get his life, I’m OK with that," the father said. 


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