Second person found alive in Northern Territory after two weeks missing in the outback

Helen Davidson

A second person who was missing for two weeks in the central Australian outback has been found alive south of Alice Springs.

Phu Tran was found by a pastoralist on Tuesday morning in the area of Palmer Valley, Northern Territory police said. Phu, 40, told the pastoralist he had survived after finding some water.

He was being transported to Alice Springs hospital for treatment for exposure.

Phu was among three people who went missing on 19 November after going out for “an afternoon trek”. Tamra McBeath-Riley was found on Monday, and a search continues for Claire Hockridge.

Related: Search resumes for missing pair near Alice Springs after woman found alive

Authorities were first alerted that the three people were missing a week after they set out, and found their bogged ute in a river on Sunday afternoon, with a note on the windshield dated 21 November.

“The river was just too large, we couldn’t get out,” said McBeath-Riley.

“During the day it’s just really hot so we dug ourselves under the car during the day into the sand. At night they could sleep in the car.”

The note said McBeath-Riley had walked north, while Phu and Hockridge had walked west towards the Stuart Highway about 22km away, looking for help after they were unable to free the car. They carried about six litres of water with them, and planned to walk in cooler hours, the ABC reported.

“They had a TomTom [GPS] and a compass with them. Their intention was to go north towards the Stuart Highway, which is about 22km from where they have left,” Supt Pauline Vicary said.

After launching a new aerial search, police said on Monday they had located a single set of footprints, suggesting Phu and Hockridge had split up.

Temperatures in the area have reached nearly 40C.

The trio stuck together for several days until supplies ran out, before sourcing water from a nearby waterhole and drinking it, and then separating for Hockridge and Phu to walk towards the highway.

Police located McBeath-Riley at a waterhole east of Stuarts Well, after a pastoralist reported tyre tracks in an area which had not yet been searched.

“As a result of that information, we were able to locate the vehicle and then from there they have followed some of the other tracks and have located her,” Vicary told ABC News.

“She’s had a fairly traumatic period of time. It looks like she had travelled about 1.5km from the vehicle and was in an area where there was some water,” Vicary said.

“So sensibly she appears to have stayed where the water is and has been drinking that and that’s probably what kept her going.”