A missing mother and daughter have been found after police conducted a large-scale search in rural Queensland when the couple failed to return home on Friday night.
Alarms were sounded after authorities found a locked Ford Falcon ute near Old Esk North Road, Nanango, containing the phones of Michelle Lyn Melbourne, 54, and Nikita May Bennett, 36.
Police believe they were probing around at Seven Mile Diggings, an old gold fossil site used between 1876 and 1900.
The site is located in the South Burnett region of the state, approximately 177.5 kilometers from the Sunshine Coast.
Emergency services found Ms Melbourne and Ms Bennett around 8am on Sunday after two trail cyclists reported finding the two women near a structure outside the search area.
Queensland Police Inspector Russell Reynolds said the two women were found safe and healthy within a kilometer of their vehicle.
They were discovered in a makeshift shelter near a waterfall in a creek in the exploration area.
“We believe one of them was sick and they chose to seek shelter because the sun was going down,” he said.
“Unfortunately they actually found shelter next to a waterfall, we think the waterfall may have covered up any calls for help they were making.”
Mr Reynolds said the couple, who police believe are locals in the area, had been taken to Kingaroy Hospital for precautionary checks.
He said their story was a “timely reminder” that people going into the bush should bring their phones, tell someone about their plans and bring a radio beacon that indicates emergency location (EPIRB) if possible.
Police were initially concerned for the safety of Ms Melbourne and Ms Bennett due to the area’s rough and steep terrain, and near-freezing conditions overnight in the area where temperatures could drop to around 3 degrees. C.
A large-scale search and rescue operation was launched Saturday that included Polair, the State Emergency Service (SES) and volunteers.
Mr Reynolds said police always took search and rescue operations seriously and the two women were “very lucky” in this situation.
He said: “By chance, there were two trail cyclists riding on the trail at sunrise and they came across two women.
“We just want to thank all of our partners and the community for being so patient and so helpful in this situation.”
Ms Melbourne’s son, Ben, made a disturbing plea on social media on Saturday before his mother was found.
“Missing: Has anyone seen my mother and sister who have been missing for the last 24 hours at Seven Mile Diggings in Nanango Qld,” he wrote.
“Please if you see them, please call the police. I’ve reported and I’ve had a rescue helicopter, SES and police and volunteers helping at Seven Mile Diggings in the last 24 hours, please help find them, please post back.
“Please help me find my mother and sister there (sic) named Michelle Diebert Melbourne Nikita Bennett.”