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How wine and candy helped an Australian woman survive 5 days in the bushland

A screenshot shows the moment Lillian, a 48-year-old Australian woman, was rescued after going missing in dense bushland with only a bottle of wine and some candy.
Screenshot by NPR
Victoria Police
A screenshot shows the moment Lillian, a 48-year-old Australian woman, was rescued after going missing in dense bushland with only a bottle of wine and some candy.

A woman who went missing in the Australian wilderness after making a wrong turn survived for five days on wine and candy, local authorities said.

The 48-year-old woman, who police identified in a press release as only "Lillian," was rescued by helicopter on May 5 in the Mitta Mitta bushland, a stretch of dense eucalyptus forest in the southeastern state of Victoria.

Lillian was driving towards Dartmouth Dam for a day trip from the nearby town of Bright when she hit a dead-end road and realized she'd made a wrong turn. As she tried to turn her car around, the vehicle became stuck in mud.

Without cell service, she was unable to call for help. Health issues made it difficult for her to try to walk, police said, but ultimately may have helped her survive, as she was able to use the car heater overnight to stay warm in temperatures as low as 35 degrees.

Planning for only a two-hour drive, Lillian had only a few snacks, some candy and a bottle of wine, which she'd intended as a gift for her mother. Lillian doesn't drink, police said, but she eventually consumed the bottle, her only liquid.

Lillian's family reported her missing on April 30 after she'd failed to make a daily check-in call. Local media outlet News 7 said that bad weather limited local authorities' ability to search by air.

"The area is so vast. If you can imagine, we're talking about hundreds of kilometers that Lillian might be in," police spokesperson Chris Parr told News 7 on the fourth day of searching. "We don't have a starting point at the moment."

Lillian's sister-in-law, Lisa Ip, told News 7 that Lillian was unfamiliar with the area, but excited to see it on her trip. Police said Lillian hailed from Cheltenham, a suburb of the city of Melbourne about 160 miles to the southwest.

After five days, police finally spotted her by helicopter, standing on a dirt road and waving her arms, about 37 miles away from the nearest town. Video of the rescue shared by police shows Lillian bending over in a gesture of sheer relief as a police car approaches on the ground.

"After being lost in the bush for five days, she was extremely relieved and grateful to see us, and we were just as happy to see her," said Martin Torpey, a sergeant with the police department in Wodonga, Australia.

Lillian was treated for dehydration in a nearby hospital, but otherwise appears to be healthy.

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Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
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