Topics:  editors picks, missing people, pomona, rescue, survival

Rain, leeches, mosquitoes and a night of fear for lost mum

Julie Carrington at home at Pomona with daughter Aya.
Julie Carrington at home at Pomona with daughter Aya.

JULIE Carrington was a lone voice calling out in drenched bushland with wildlife drowning around her.

As night fell, the diminutive 49-year-old woman, lost and fearful, settled herself on top of a mossy, sawn-off tree trunk.

That was the only place she could find away from the leeches lurking in the knee-high, soggy undergrowth.

As intense rain pummelled her body, she tucked the edge of her jeans around her rubber thongs and filled them with leaves.

Then, sitting upright on the trunk, she looped her umbrella handle through the belt holding up her jeans so she could fold her arms up inside her thin, cotton T-shirt and keep them covered from marauding mosquitoes.

The leaf shoes protected her feet from the mozzies, but her back - protected only by a T-shirt - soon became their number one target, turning her flesh red, itchy and lumpy.

Julie found herself lost in Pomona's Yurol Forest, in the northern Sunshine Coast hinterland, as fast-flowing floodwaters forced her to abandon her car on Monday afternoon.

The mother-of-three grabbed her two bags of groceries and decided she would simply walk the rest of the way to her rural Pomona home.

The sign that usually warned of road closure was not in place.

So she followed the regular path, crossing two flooded areas before she decided conditions were too dangerous to attempt making the third crossing.

Julie, who has lived in the area for 24 years, said yesterday she had felt confident as she headed through the forest.

She also knew that the relatively small area was completely surrounded by roads.

"I had often bushwalked the area and ridden my horse through there and I didn't want to worry my family who were waiting at home for me," she said yesterday.

But once she was surrounded by the forest, Julie found the flooding rains had made usually familiar areas unrecognisable and she quickly lost her bearings.

"The rain had changed everything. It was all distorted," she said. "I became disoriented and panicked. I think I began to walk in circles."

The bags - filled with bread, milk, eggs and other groceries - became increasingly heavy.

"I was really struggling, so I decided to drop them," Julie said. But she had the presence of mind to leave a Hansel-and-Gretel-style trail of items as signs for her would-be rescuers.

"But later on, I wish I'd just kept one apple to eat," Julie said yesterday.

Realising she was destined to spend the night in the forest, Julie put herself into fight mode and stopped herself shedding tears.

"It was terrifying and I thought if I saw a snake I would lose it," Julie said.

"But I told myself that it was panic that got me into this position and (panic) wasn't going to get me out."

At first light, she decided she would not be spending another night in the forest.

She set out several times, but still unsure of her bearings, she returned to the only place she knew: the tree trunk. Finally, she began her four-hour walk home.



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