A local farmer who was first to spot a university student missing for six days in the Gold Coast hinterland has described the moment she heard a voice “calling out” over the roar of a nearby waterfall.
Yang Chen, 26, vanished in heavy rain while bushwalking with a male companion in Tallebudgera Valley last Wednesday.
Local landowner Lyn Cook volunteered to take police divers to several waterholes in the area yesterday, but told ABC Radio Brisbane she had “no expectation of finding her alive”.
“We got to Gorge Falls … the police divers were starting to put their gear on … and I climbed onto a ledge that overlooks the pool to monitor them,” she said.
As the waterfall “thundered” in her ear, she said she suddenly became aware of a voice calling in the distance, before spotting the missing woman.
“I said to the police, ‘There’s someone calling out’, and I could see someone on the ledge up behind the trees,” she said.
“I said, ‘Have you got search people up there?’ They said, ‘No’. I said, ‘Well, there’s a lady up there on the shelf behind the trees’.
“They just dropped their gear, they bounded up onto the ledge with me, they peered out, and said, ‘That’s her’.”
Ms Cook said she grew fearful when Ms Chen made a move towards the edge of the rock shelf — about 30 metres above the base of Gorge Falls.
“I kept yelling out, ‘Stay, stay’, and eventually she took on board what I was saying, and she sat down,” she said.
“They said they were getting a helicopter and I said, ‘You’ll kill us all if you try to get her out of this bush in a helicopter.’ So they cancelled the helicopter.”
After the police dive squad scaled a cliff face to reach the woman and bring her to safety, Ms Cook said she gave her a “big hug”.
“She just had this weak smile on her face. I went up to her and said, ‘Give me a hug, we’re just so delighted to see you’.
“She just was amazing. She still had go in her, still just stepping along.
“When she got to the car and she was in the police car, she turned around to me and she said, ‘Bye, thank you’, and then she said, ‘I’ll see you again’.”
Bond University vice chancellor Tim Brailsford visited Ms Chen yesterday, shortly after she was admitted to Robina Hospital.
He released a statement at her family’s request.
“Yang and her parents asked me to pass on their sincerest thanks to everyone who was part of the rescue operation, and to the hospital staff who have looked after her since,” he said.
“Yang and I phoned her parents in China who were ecstatic with the news, and overwhelmed with gratitude.
“Yang is in surprisingly good spirits and health considering the extraordinary and traumatic experience she has been through.
“She has undergone tests for any serious conditions, which thankfully have come back with no concerns. However, Yang will still be closely monitored. She has cuts, bruises and plenty of insect bites but otherwise is in remarkable shape.
“She even joked that her viewing of survival and adventure-style TV shows helped her survive as she remembered handy tips like gathering leaves for night cover, and drinking from flowing water.”
It is understood she had been sleeping in caves and drinking fresh water from nearby creeks for the past five nights.