The group used a drone to reach cell service and call for help after becoming stranded by torrential downpours in far north Queensland

By Joelle Goldstein
January 07, 2021 02:16 PM
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Australian officials rescuing the group of people
| Credit: Queensland Police

A trip to see an Australian waterfall took a dangerous turn for four adults and a baby this week after they became stranded by torrential rains and had to be rescued with help from a drone, according to authorities.

The Queensland State Emergency Service (SES) confirmed in a press release that the group was traveling up Kirrama Range Road, which is located in far north Queensland, when the incident unfolded on Monday.

Officials were able to find the group the following day after one of the adults attached his cell phone to a drone and flew it into the air to send an SOS text message, according to the press release.

"He was clever enough to think that if he typed the message on his phone and pressed send that it would keep trying to send until it got reception," SES area controller James Gegg told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News after the rescue.

"When he brought [the drone] back down he confirmed the message had been sent, so he did get reception … that raised the alarm and people were able to activate," Gegg added.

Australian officials rescuing the group of people
| Credit: Queensland Police

According to ABC News, the adults and 6-month-old baby were traveling up the rural road in order to see Blencoe Falls, which is considered "one of the most stunning waterfalls in Australia."

Currently, the Queensland government's website states that the falls "can be accessed from both inland and the coast via unsealed roads that should only be attempted in dry conditions," and that "flooding may occur during the wetter months (December to April)."

Though the group had intended on completing the trail by coming down a different route than they went up, they were forced to turn around when they reached the top and noticed the creek leading into the waterfall was "swollen," ABC News reported.

Australian officials rescuing the group of people
| Credit: Queensland Police

Things took a scary turn on their way back down when the heavy rains led a creek to flood the area where their car was parked, Gegg told the outlet.

"The engine conked out and they couldn't get it going so they got out of the vehicle safely and needed to spend the night as it was quite late by that stage," he explained.

In their press release, the Queensland SES said the group was able to reach higher ground before setting up a tent to spend the night "as the creeks around them flooded the road blocking them in."

Because there was no mobile reception in the area, one of the adults relied on their drone to send an SOS message to a family member, providing their GPS coordinates and information on their situation, SES officials stated.

Australian officials rescuing the group of people
| Credit: Queensland Police
Australian officials rescuing the group of people
| Credit: Queensland Police

As they waited, the area was hit by hundreds of millimeters of rain, brought on by ex-Tropical Cyclone Imogen, ABC News reported.

It wasn't until 8 a.m. the next morning that the SOS message was received and authorities learned of the situation, the Queensland SES noted.

Cardwell Police, local Cardwell SES volunteers and Cassowary Coast Regional Council staff with a front end loader immediately set out to find the group, making their way around fallen trees and landslides as they continued to search.

By 12:40 p.m. on Tuesday, the GPS coordinates finally led the search and rescue teams to the four adults and baby.

At this time, it is unclear if anyone suffered injuries during the ordeal. Gegg noted that upon being rescued, the group was relieved to see authorities.

"The group was very good and extremely happy to see everyone turning up for them, a little bit sheepish I think," he told ABC News.

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In the wake of the incident, police reminded Australian residents to avoid driving through flooded areas and to plan ahead, especially if there are reports of bad weather.

"Obviously in this case the group was very lucky and smart to think of using the drone to get a message out, but without that they would have been staying there until somebody missed them," Gegg said to ABC News.

He also advised those who plan on traveling through remote areas to buy a personal locator beacon.

"They're fairly inexpensive and they can get an emergency alert out very quickly with your exact GPS location," he explained to the outlet.