Theresa Dougherty, 45, was found alive after going missing in bushland near her Barkles Rd home.

SEARCH SUCCESS: Partner's harrowing 24 hours

12th April 2019 6:50 PM
UPDATED 6:50 PM
premium_icon Subscriber only

BAREFOOT with just the clothes on her back and two loyal dogs, Theresa Dougherty was far from prepared for a 24-hour ordeal in rugged bushland.

Just how she became lost was unclear but the emotion was evident, plastered across faces at Ms Dougherty's Isis Central property early this afternoon, where SES, police and Theresa's partner, Graeme Feek, were gathered, as the LifeFlight helicopter operator radioed in to announce the 45-year-old had been found alive.

Sergeant Tim Marrinan said Ms Dougherty went missing after she went looking for one of the dogs on her 17-acre property. The dog had earlier been involved in a fight with another dog on the property.

Sergeant Tim Marrinan.
Sergeant Tim Marrinan. Mike Knott BUN120419RES7

A teary-eyed Mr Feek said it had been a harrowing 24 hours, when he was hoping and praying for her safe return.

"I'd been talking to her an hour before I got home from work saying that she was going to look for the dog," he said.

"I got home and she wasn't in sight so I went round, looked for her, looked for the dogs.

"She didn't turn up, I couldn't hear the dogs, couldn't hear her, I looked until about 4.30pm, I was pretty worried by then so I called the police."

Graeme Feek was relieved that his partner Theresa Dougherty was found alive in thick bushland near their home.
Graeme Feek was relieved that his partner Theresa Dougherty was found alive in thick bushland near their home. Mike Knott BUN120419RES11

He said SES crews searched until 11pm on Thursday but couldn't find her.

The search recommenced at first light.

It was at 1pm when she was found with the dogs, Hugo and Arthur.

Mr Feek said when he first saw her relief swept through him. He gave her a big hug.

Graeme Feek was relieved that his partner Theresa Dougherty was found alive in thick bushland near their home.
Graeme Feek was relieved that his partner Theresa Dougherty was found alive in thick bushland near their home. Mike Knott BUN120419RES15

"It sounds like she'd had a fall when she first went out to look for the dogs," he said.

"She must have got disorientated where she was, then got lost.

"She could hear the helicopter going around and got on the move.

"Eventually she found a track, where they found her."

While she was found just 400m from the property, Mr Feek said it sounded like she'd travelled quite a way to get back to that track.

SES Bundaberg local controller Kieran Galey.
SES Bundaberg local controller Kieran Galey. Mike Knott BUN120419RES25

"She's very tired and pretty disorientated still but very relieved," he said.

"She had the dogs with her, which never left her, they laid with her last night to keep her warm and they still won't leave her."

Mr Feek expressed huge thanks to the emergency services.

"SES, police, they've been fantastic, and the helicopter, they've been great, kept us informed the whole way," he said.

"I can't say enough for them, absolutely fantastic, thank you very much to everybody."

Theresa Dougherty, 45, was found alive after going missing in bushland near her Barkles Rd home.
Theresa Dougherty, 45, was found alive after going missing in bushland near her Barkles Rd home. Mike Knott BUN120419RES13

Sgt Marriman said Thursday night's search along boundary fences saw 26 SES volunteers comb the area as the temperature dropped to 17 degrees.

He said it was the LifeFlight helicopter crew who spotted the missing person and was met by police to bring her home.

"Approximately 400m away (from the house), the boys when they went back to refuel saw what they believed was a black dog, so when they refuelled they came straight back to the same area and that's when they spotted her," Sgt Marrinan said.

"She actually waved up to the chopper. We still have to find out the full circumstances of how she got lost and her well-being but we'll do that in due course."

 

Theresa Dougherty, 45, was found alive after going missing in bushland near her Barkles Rd home.
Theresa Dougherty, 45, was found alive after going missing in bushland near her Barkles Rd home. Mike Knott BUN120419RES12

He said the dense bushland made it difficult to see in their foot search and nearly impossible to search at night.

"It's one of the areas we were going to search, we just hadn't physically searched that area with a grid and that's why we use the air asset to cover a lot more ground initially than what we can do by foot," Sgt Marrinan said.

Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight helicopter line pilot Shaun Gillespie said they started a radiating search from the property and after searching for two-and-a-half hours were required to refuel when he spotted what he thought was a dog.

LifeFlight pilot Shaun Gillespie.
LifeFlight pilot Shaun Gillespie. Mike Knott BUN120419RES17

"She'd made her way up to one of the fire trails, which of course made it a lot easier for us to spot her in the bush rather than being in the undergrowth," Mr Gillespie said.

"It's great when you get a good result like this on a search, sometimes they can be a fruitful search and this time was a good outcome.

"She's in a good state, or fairly healthy state, for having spent the night out in the bush and she had her two dogs."

Sgt Marrinan said it was very pleasing to have this kind of outcome.

"Most of the time we do have these outcomes, then there's that small percentage when we don't have those outcomes - but this is very positive, yes," he said.

"This is the best case scenario, this is sensational."

A police spokesperson said Ms Dougherty suffered minor grazes and was taken to Bundaberg Hospital.