A father's instinct has led to the rescue of his son after a car crash nearly ended in tragedy. Tony Lethbridge was worried because it had been 24 hours since he heard from his son.
After many unanswered phone calls, Lethbridge and his wife went for a drive to see if they could find 17-year-old Samuel, but saw no sign of him. "We got back into Newcastle about 1:30 am [Monday morning] and went straight to the police station," Lethbridge said. "They told us that he might have ran away, he could have done this or he could have done that and we just said, 'It's out of character; it's not him.'"
The police told the couple to go home and wait while they started their search, but Lethbridge couldn't get it over the feeling that something had gone wrong. "I just couldn't get it out of my head that he'd crashed somewhere."
The last thing he knew was that his son was supposed to be heading to his girlfriend's house, but he never showed up. It was while thinking about the routes he would have taken that he remembered an accident that had taken place a few years ago where a person went missing for five days before anyone found the vehicle.
"And he'd passed away," Lethbridge said. "That was in my head, so I just thought bugger this I'm not going to sit around and wait. "With the way the bush is there, if a car goes in you're not going to see it. The only way you'll see it is from the air. And that's what we did."
The concerned father wasn't going to sit around and wait, he took matters into his own hands and headed to the airport.
Lethbridge walked into the Lake Macquarie Airport with cash in hand. "I thought, I'm going to get a helicopter no matter what. I just walked in there and said 'Mate, I've got $1000 – I need you to search as much as you can.'"
He met Lee Mitchell who said that when he first saw Lethbridge he looked "anxious and tired." Mitchell listened to Lethbridge and was ready to help. "He asked if he could, no - he said, he 'needed a helicopter bad.' He told us it was for missing son and said he believed his son had run off the road somewhere."
The company agreed to help and the helicopter took off to begin their search while Lethbridge waited on the ground because of his fear of flying. But it didn't take long before they heard the news. Ten minutes after the flight took off, the pilot reported the location of a vehicle matching the description.
Lethbridge took off immediately in his car and followed to where the helicopter was hovering. Lethbridge's brother, Tony, had gone along in the helicopter and was set down near the wreck to go check on the teenager while his father was on his way to the location.
Tony approached slowly, afraid of what he would find but he saw Samuel's head move inside the car and he immediately sent a text message to Lethbridge saying "he's alive."
"When I got there, I ran down there and it was just jubilation," he said. "It was unbelievable, to find him there."
Samuel had been trapped in the vehicle for almost 30 hours and was dehydrated and severely injured. His thigh bone was protruding from his leg so he couldn't have gotten out of the car even if it was possible.
"You wouldn't have seen him if it wasn't for the helicopter, because I couldn't see him from the road," Lethbridge said. "If the helicopter wasn't hovering above, I would have never had found him."
His dad arrived, as did emergency services, and they were able to get him out of the vehicle and rushed to the hospital. He was found to have a broken arm, dislocated elbow and small fractures throughout his body along with the obvious break in his leg.
"He spoke to me when I got down to the car," Lethbridge said. "I grabbed him and I said: 'Mate, dad's got you'." His son replied, "I'd love a drink."
Samuel has a long road of recovery ahead of him, but he's lucky that his dad didn't wait for the police because they may not have found him in time.