Tony Lethbridge knew something wasn’t right when his 17-year-old son, Samuel Lethbridge, never came back home after a night out. So, he listened to his fatherly instincts to try to find him.
According to the NY Post, the teen went out on Saturday night and still wasn’t home by the next evening. It just wasn’t like him to not come home. The NY Post reports Lethbridge told 7 News:
“Everybody was saying: He’s probably run away and all that kind of stuff. That’s just not Samuel.”
Then the Australian father remembered a victim who died after a car crash and wasn’t discovered for five days. He said, “I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Lethbridge told 7 News:
“His mates were telling us he was a bit tired when he dropped his mate off on the central coast so [a crash] was the only thing we could think of.”
The dad reported him missing late on Sunday and by Monday morning, the desperate father turned to a helicopter company to help search for his son.
The NY Post reports that Lee Mitchell, the helicopter pilot and part-owner of Skyline Aviation Group, gave the dad a discounted price of 1,200 Australian dollars ($956) per hour when he learned Lethbridge’s son was missing. Mitchell explained:
“He came in looking anxious and somewhat fatigued and said he needed helicopter bad. He just said: ‘I’ve got $1,000 ($797) on me, will that be enough?’ and we said: ‘Yes, it would.’”
Since the dad suffers from air sickness, Samuel’s uncle, Michael Lethbridge, went up in the helicopter for him. The teen’s car was discovered 15 minutes into the flight.
At that point, Samuel had been trapped in the car for 30 hours.
Mitchell explained that the helicopter made all the difference in spotting the crashed car:
“It was fairly easy to spot from the air. It would’ve been near impossible to see from the road because it was well below the road level.”
The teen’s uncle admitted that he was terrified as they approached the vehicle:
“I really didn’t want to go. I was scared of what I’d find. As I got closer I seen Sam’s head move.”
Luckily, Samuel was alive.
“I went from being terrified to ecstatic in a couple of seconds.”
New South Wales Ambulance superintendent Jeff Atkins said, “He’d been there all night. No one could see him from the road, no one at all.”
Rescue workers peeled the roof back and cut the seats out of the car after they found the teen’s body pinned under the dashboard, 7 News reports.
The pilot was thrilled the teen was rescued, especially since he’d taken part in searches with a much different outcome:
“We were overwhelmed. It was a great outcome. We’ve done a lot of search and rescue stuff in previous years and they don’t always turn out so favorably.”
The 17-year-old suffered multiple fractures in the crash and underwent surgery for a broken arm, leg, and spinal injuries. He remains hospitalized in serious condition, according to 7 News.
See more on the incredible rescue below: