Who said that only moms can have uncanny protective instincts when it comes to their kids? When 17-year-old Samuel failed to come home on a Sunday night, dad Tony Lethbridge had a bad feeling. The teen son didn’t respond to any of his family’s messages and posts for information on Facebook didn’t give them any results. His family began to panic. Samuel’s parents, Tony and Lee, went to the police to report their missing son’s disappearance.
They were reportedly told to simply go home and wait – but no one in the family could sit still and wait for the police to do their job. Tony couldn’t sleep, so he went out to search for his son. The desperate dad had a gut feeling that his son had crashed his car and was lying injured somewhere. The first thing dad Tony did when his son Samuel disappeared was ask his friends if they knew anything.
They said that Samuel had planned a drive that Sunday to meet his girlfriend in a nearby town and that he had been tired when he drove them home on Sunday night. It was then that Tony felt a terrible gut feeling that he couldn’t shake – that Samuel had been in an accident. “Everybody was saying he’s probably run away … but that’s just not Samuel,” dad Tony Lethbridge tells The Sydney Morning Herald.
Tony had a hunch that his son had crashed his car and was lying injured somewhere out there. He remembered a tragic story that took place in the same area where Samuel was driving. The driver in that accident had not been found for five days and died in the aftermath of the car crash. “That was in my head, so I just thought, ‘Bugger this, I’m not going to sit around and wait,” he explained.
“With the way the bush is there if a car goes in you’re not going to see it. The only way you’ll see it is from the air. And that’s what we did.” The family lives in Australia, and Tony knew that it was a race against time to find Samuel’s car out in the wilderness. “I said to my wife, ‘I’m not going to wait any longer. I’m going to hire a helicopter and go looking for him,’” Tony said.
Tony managed to get the $800 needed to rent a to a helicopter from Skyline Aviation Group. The desperate dad went to a plane hanger, threw his cash on the desk and asked and pilot to search for his son. Samuel’s uncle, Michael Lethbridge, went along for the helicopter ride, as Tony struggles with a plane phobia. Tony’s gut feeling told him where they should start searching: Around an accident-prone road where that boy had died in a traffic accident a few years earlier.
Just 10 minutes after the helicopter took off, the family discovered a white car wrecked on the side of the Pacific Highway, close to Newcastle, north of Sydney. The exact area Samuel’s dad had led them to. If they’d driven there they may not have seen the car, since the highway is surrounded by thick vegetation. But from the air, it was impossible to miss. Tony immediately began the frantic drive out to the site. The family recognized the car instantly and landed next to the wreck.
Samuel was trapped in the car and wasn’t moving. When emergency services arrived on the scene, that had to cut the vehicle open to pull Samuel from the wreckage. Fighting for his life, trapped in his vehicle for what was nearing 30 hours, Samuel was dehydrated and suffering serious injuries. “He spoke to me when I got down to the car,” Tony Lethbridge said. “I grabbed him and I said: ‘Mate, dad’s got you’.”
Samuel’s first words to his father were: “I’d love a drink”. At the hospital, they discovered he had a broken arm and injuries on his legs and back. A broken thigh bone was protruding three inches through the skin. The Lethbridge family started an online fundraiser for Samuel’s recovering and praising Tony as the hero dad he is. Great job Dad! You saved his life. You should always trust your gut instincts!