Death in the desert

Submitted: Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 09:38
ThreadID: 21988 Views:4556 Replies:5 FollowUps:7
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Two men who died in desert in the Pilbara after running out of water were ill-informed and ill-prepared for their journey, police said last night.

The men, one is his early 20s and the other his early 40s, were found dead by another man on Friday on the Talawana Track, 51km east of the Cotton Creek turn-off in the Pilbara.

Newman police drove to the scene on Sunday and found the men next to their Land Rover four-wheel drive.

Sen. Sgt. Geoff Stewart, from the Newman police, said the vehicle had broken down and the men had run out of water.

He said they were last seen alive in the area on March 28 and it appeared they had been dead for some time before being found.

"No one knew they were missing - simple as that - and people really do underestimate the State that we live in, especially out there," he said.

"They were only 9km from a fully operational water bore which was on the same track they were on but further from where they were.

"They didn't know that because they hadn't been there.

"All indications are that they were ill-prepared, ill-informed and didn't notify any agencies what their intended travel was."

Sen. Sgt. Stewart said the men had left a note before searching for water but returned empty-handed. The police were working with the men's families in NSW to formally identify them.

"At this time of the year we are coming out of the so-called wet season and one of the things that has counted against them is there is no real vehicle traffic in that area whatsoever at this time of the year," he said.

"The occupants have chosen to go out there at a time when there is not a lot of vehicle traffic at all.

"The indications are that the vehicle they used was not equipped enough. We have since found out their intended destination was further north but they would not have had enough fuel or water to traverse the type of desert areas out there.

"The Talawana Track goes on the Canning Stock route and then they would have turned left and headed north and the vehicle wasn't up to that sort of journey."

The area has a history of being dangerous to tourists and locals.



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Reply By: Peter 2 - Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 11:31

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 11:31
No idea what happened to the vehicle? breakdown?
Is this the same couple as the earlier post?
AnswerID: 106332

Follow Up By: Member - bushfix - Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 12:10

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 12:10
G'day Pete,

yep, same story, see here

FollowupID: 363343

Reply By: WDR - Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 16:03

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 16:03
A real tragedy = Were they european or indigenous?
AnswerID: 106371

Follow Up By: Troopy22 - Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 17:29

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 17:29
Eastern Staters - so probably non-Indigenous.
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Follow Up By: kimprado - Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 17:30

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 17:30
My understanding is that they were both originally from NSW but lived in Canarvon, which makes this loss of life even more perplexing.


FollowupID: 363407

Reply By: WDR - Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 20:54

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 20:54
There is a story behind this somewhere

Old car in poor disrepair
Not enough water
Not enough petrol
Car broken down
Flat tyres
9K from water and they did not know it
Lived in the general area but were not missed and did not tell anyone where they were going.
Two dead
Dead dog

Verrrrrrry strannnnnnnnnnnnge
AnswerID: 106430

Reply By: Member - Bigbear - Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 22:33

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 22:33
If you are going into the desert, then you need to know what you are doing.
Lots of planningis required. And when you think you have it all worked out, do some more resaerch and planning. It is a beautiful part of our country and I really love it. BUT it will bite you hard if you make a mistake.
Rule No 1. NEVER travel alone.
Rule No 2. Go to rule !
AnswerID: 106456

Reply By: Truckster (Vic) - Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 22:38

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005 at 22:38
'Disaster waiting to happen' did
By Tim Clarke
April 12, 2005
From: AAP

On the trail ... few vehicles are using the Gibson desert at this time of year / File TWO men who perished in the scorching West Australian desert made a desperate 14km trek to find water but went the wrong way and died just 9km from a well.

Without a detailed map, they had no way of knowing they were so close to the water hole that would have saved their lives after their dilapidated Land-Rover broke down.
The victims are yet to be formally identified, but police believe they are Bradley John Richards, 40, and his 21-year-old nephew Mac Bevan Cody, formerly of Warilla in New South Wales but who had both been living in Carnarvon, 905km north of Perth.

The men died on the fringe of the Great Sandy Desert, on the remote Talawana Track, 51km east of Cotton Creek in the Pilbara, after setting out without enough petrol and water.

They had failed to tell anybody of their plans to follow the unforgiving Canning Stock Route north to Kununurra to go fruit picking, and no one knew they were missing, police said.

They also set off without a map showing the location of more than 50 wells along the route, and carried only a mobile phone, so had no way to call for help.

A station hand found their bodies and that of their dog beside their stricken vehicle last Friday, but the remote location meant it took until today to recover them.

Forensic tests are expected to confirm their identities in the next few days.

The pair left the Pilbara town of Newman on March 28, passing through Cotton Creek, where they refuelled.

That was the last time they were seen alive and police today suggested the pair had no chance of making the journey safely.

Their four-wheel-drive did not even have enough fuel to reach the next petrol stop, and they had no more than 15 litres of water between them when they set out.

Investigations have shown the men set off on a desperate trek – in temperatures pushing 40C – to find water, walking west for 7km before giving up and returning to their vehicle.

Police have described the incident as a "disaster waiting to happen".

"Without wanting to pre-empt inquiries on behalf of the coroner it appears these men ventured into one of the most remote parts of WA in an unreliable vehicle without enough fuel or water," WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said.

"And to make matters worse, it seems they didn't tell anyone where they were going so no one knew they were overdue.

"It's just a disaster waiting to happen and it did."

Despite the distance they intended to travel, through some of Australia's most unforgiving terrain, the men's vehicle was not fitted with a two-way radio.

The tragedy showed how vital it was to follow basic procedures when travelling in remote and rugged terrain, Mr O'Callaghan said.

With planning, the men could have found the nearby Georgia bore and survived until they were found, he said.

"Only 9km from where they had broken down was a bore ... where they could have got plenty of water and would have survived for some days," Mr O'Callaghan said.

"They (the bodies) were found by someone travelling on the track so they would have eventually been located.

"The key is for more education for people who go out there. Let someone know you are going, plan your route and have a good look and make sure you have got the right equipment and the resources to do the job.

"Our officers shake their heads all the time at the stupidity of some things."

The family of the victims meanwhile urged all travellers to prepare for outback travel.

Mr Richards was close to his sister's eldest son, 21-year-old Mac, who was bright, single-minded and had the travel bug from a young age, his brother Guy Richards said from his hom in Tasmania.

"Even as a little boy he wanted to know were the road ended," Mr Richards said.

The pair were experienced travellers, and Mr Richards could not understand why they had set out with insufficient water and fuel, and no map.

"What possessed them to go where they've gone, the way they've gone, we can't second guess," he said.

"We're astounded and horrified – just bleep tered."

The family, including Mac's parents and 18-year-old brother, wanted to stress to other outback travellers the importance of properly preparing for their journey, Mr Richards said.

"Prepare yourselves for Australia," he said.

"Australia is a vicious place and that's not to be underestimated.

"It is very unforgiving as plenty of people have found."

AnswerID: 106458

Follow Up By: Member - Stan (VIC) - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005 at 10:01

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005 at 10:01
It was a approx 25 year old + landrover

Carrying 25 litres of extra fuel apart from the landrovers standard fuel

Carrying 15 litres of water

No tools
No shovel (small spade only)
No recovery gear
No communications (radio, epirb, Satphone)
No tyre repair kit
No detailed maps (had a broad map of area but none that showed bores and
wells, most important in this case)
FollowupID: 363522

Follow Up By: Mad Dog (Australia) - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005 at 17:57

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005 at 17:57
>The pair were experienced travellers, and Mr Richards could not understand why they had set out with insufficient water and fuel, and no map.

They don't sound too clued up to me but maybe they were on a promise from the honey up the road and forgot themselves.

FollowupID: 363563

Follow Up By: Member - John (Vic) - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005 at 18:24

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005 at 18:24
I saw a report today that claimed both gentlemen were suffering from Bi Polar disorder and had been known to do strange things.

What seems to all of us as elementary and basic common sense can elude the sufferers of this disorder

In this case it was reported that one was due to face court and they both left the day before the hearing ???

In the end we will probably never know but lets not forget the lessons to learned from this tragic situation.
Water and communications can never be underestimated in this part of the world.
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FollowupID: 363568

Follow Up By: Want2DoItAllAgain - Friday, Apr 15, 2005 at 14:26

Friday, Apr 15, 2005 at 14:26
Anyone know how long these guys had been on the road for prior to this, or how long they had owned the vehicle for? I have an awful feeling that my husband and I might have met them on our travels last year.
My husband and I camped at Coronation Beach near Geraldton WA last year (around May) and came across some interesting guys. We went for a bit of a drive up a sandy track along the beach and found two men bogged. They only had a 2 wheel drive ute and said "they thought they would just see how far they could get". They had no recovery gear, no shovel, and not much else other than the clothes they were wearing. After pulling them out we had a bit of a chat, asking where they were from etc. We remember them telling us that they were from Warilla NSW (we are also from that area), and had been on the road for quite some time fruit picking. They also had a new pup. Coincidence huh?
After reading the post about about the men having Bi-Polar, I am really starting to think. The guys we met did behave quite strangely and we had found out from other campers in the area that they were apparently driving the 50 odd km return trip back to Geraldton every night to get a free meal from charity rather than buy food and cook it themselves!

It really wouldn't surprise me if it was these two men we'd met as I remember saying to my husband "what would have happened if no-one went down that track? They would have been stuck there for days!"
Even if it isn't the same men, it does prove that there are people out there that just don't think! Maybe they had taken stupid risks many times before and had always been "rescued" by other well-meaning and well equipped travellers such as us and the they have lost a sense of personal responsiblity thinking that someone else other than themselves would eventually get them out of trouble? That also brings me back to another memory of a couple we met on the Plenty Hwy who were travelling in a very old run down vehicle. They had run out of petrol and were basically "hitchhiking" with their car, getting small amounts of fuel from other travellers hoping to get to their destination. It looked as if they had been doing this for a week!

I really do feel sad for the family of the men, and for others invloved in the case. I hope it has sent a message out to those taking unecessary risks.
FollowupID: 363858

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