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A distressed teenage girl whose family was struck by a landslide during a bushwalking trip to the Blue Mountains made a desperate 90 minute solo trek to plead for help.
More devastating details have emerged about the plight of a British family at the centre of a fatal landslip tragedy at Wentworth Falls, west of Sydney, on Monday afternoon.
A father, 49, and young son, nine, were killed while his wife, 50, and another son, 14, are fighting for life for life in hospital in a critical condition.
A 15-year-old girl trekked for an hour-and-a-half along a hiking track alone to raise the alarm and get help for her injured father, mother and two brothers.
Police said the girl was uninjured but ‘extremely distressed’ and was later treated for shock.
A day trip to the Blue Mountains has ended in tragedy for a British family after a man and his nine-year-old son were killed by a freak landslide (pictured, emergency crews making the trek)
Emergency crews will retrieve the bodies of the man and boy from then scene on Tuesday morning.
It’s understood the family were on holidays in Australia visiting from Britain and had no warning prior to the tragedy, according to emergency services.
‘Everything we can glean from the notes during the call suggest it was a freak accident,’ NSW Ambulance chief superintendent Stewart Clarke told Sunrise on Tuesday.
‘What was concerning more so after the fact was the concern that there were still noises being heard after the initial impact, which poses a significant risks to the patients as well as our people being sent in.’
A multi-agency rescue operation was launched to retrieve the family from the 5km Wentworth Pass loop track after the alarm was raised shortly before 1pm on Monday.
Getting to the victims safely was a difficult operation for emergency crews.
‘These people who work tirelessly for us are the best in what they do,’ Supt Clarke said.
‘They are highly trained and highly skilled but that doesn’t negate the intense risk assessments that were carried out at the time to ensure they were able to use these skills safely to access the patients to deliver some high level clinical care.’
The woman and 14-year-old boy, who suffered severe head and abdominal injuries, had to be sedated before being winched from the trail by paramedics just before 6pm.
They were airlifted to Westmead Hospital and the Children’s Hospital, where they remain in a critical condition.
It’s since been revealed the family were permitted to use a treacherous bushwalking trail despite weeks of torrential rain making the area dangerous for hikers.
A video posted by sports and recreation blog ‘Find My Australia’ shows hikers winding their way down the steep cliff and up muddy embankments on the weekend.
While picturesque, the clip highlights the precarious nature of the valley walk, which features sharp descents down narrow stone stairways and towering walls of rock.
Two bushwalkers have died following a landslide in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney
A teenage boy and woman have been airlifted to hospital in critical conditions, while a fifth member of the family – a 15-year-old girl- was uninjured
Rescuers had struggled to access the victims due not only to the remote location, but the hazardous terrain and unstable trail because of days of heavy downpours across the Blue Mountains.
The Wentworth Pass track is notoriously steep and is considered as having a grade four difficulty under NSW National Park and Wildlife Service guidelines, which recommends only experienced bushwalkers use it.
Despite the muddy, slippery conditions, NSW Police said the part of the track where the tragedy happened was open to the public.
Several areas around Wentworth Falls have been closed since March 11 due to flood damage, with a major landslip recently shutting down Kedumba Valley Road, which is next to the trail.
National Pass, another trail about 350 metres away from Monday’s deadly incident, has also been closed for the past few weeks due to an ‘ongoing rockfall risk’.
A man who was at the popular tourist spot about the same time as the Brits on Monday told Daily Mail Australia he cautiously cut his hike short because the ground was muddy and stairways were wet and he’d recently suffered a leg injury on a trek.
In an post an hour after the tragedy, trail running organiser Ultra-Trail Australia announced the Wentworth Falls track was due to be upgraded later this week to make sure it was safe in time for their upcoming event.
‘We’ve been working closely with [National Parks and Council teams] to ensure that our courses will be good to go come 12-15 May, and we’re confident that they will be ready in five weeks time,’ the group wrote on their Facebook page about 2.30pm.
The tragedy happened near the Wentworth Pass hiking track in the Blue Moutains, about 50km west of Sydney
Paramedics were winched from a rescue helicopter down the cliff face as they searched for anyone who had been taken by moving debris
A rescue operation (pictured) was launched to lift the critical patients out of the area for further medical treatment
‘Parks has asked us to let you all know about a few upcoming track closures this week on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th of April (weather dependent), which include sections of course near Fairmont Resort and Wentworth Falls.’
However, hours after the deaths, NSW National Park and Wildlife Service announced the section would be closed indefinitely.
‘The Wentworth Falls and Valley of the Waters precincts are closed following a rockfall incident,’ the department wrote on their website.
‘Please avoid this area until further notice.’
Hiking fanatics who visited the same trail in recent days have expressed their shock and offered condolences to the British family online.
Several areas around Wentworth Falls (pictured: A hiker on the trail on Monday) had been closed since March 11 due to flood damage, with a major landslip recently shutting Kedumba Valley Road
‘This is the trail we completed two days earlier and were unaware of any dangers at the time,’ they wrote on Facebook.
‘Our thoughts are with the families of these walkers’.
The family were holidaying in Australia from the UK, NSW Police have confirmed, and the British Consulate is now assisting.
Authorities are still working to determine whether the landslide fell on the group while they were walking along a bush track, or if they were trekking along the cliff face that fell.
In an eerie post an hour after the tragedy, trail running organiser Ultra-Trail Australia announced the Wentworth Falls track was due to be upgraded later this week to make sure it was safe in time for their upcoming event
NSW Police Detective Acting Superintendent John Nelson described the trail as an ‘extremely dangerous, unstable environment’ during the rescue operation.
‘In terms of the site, it’s extremely dangerous and unstable,’ he said
NSW Ambulance superintendent Stewart Clarke added: ‘This is absolutely heartbreaking for all involved and a truly tragic ending to what I’m sure was meant to be a pleasant day out.
‘It is terribly sad to have lost two lives here today and my heart goes out to the families and the survivors of this horrific ordeal who have witnessed what is certainly a traumatic event.’
‘This was a really complex and delicate rescue operation for our crews who were working to access patients in rugged bushland and were navigating unstable ground.’
Rescue efforts have been hampered by the treacherous terrain, which has been ‘unstable’ due to recent rainfall
The rescue operation also involved local police, Police Rescue, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks & Wildlife Services, Blue Mountains detectives, and PolAir and rescue helicopters
Blue Mountains City Council Mayor Mark Greenhill offered his thoughts to the victims, their family, and friends.
‘Whether resident here or not, those who come within our beautiful Blue Mountains are taken to our hearts,’ Mr Greenhill said.
‘Moments like this cause pain and grief to our entire Blue Mountains family.’
Seven paramedic road crews including special operations paramedics and two rescue helicopters with a critical care doctor and a critical care paramedic on board were dispatched to the scene.
The rescue operation also involved local police, Police Rescue, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks & Wildlife Services, Blue Mountains detectives, and PolAir and rescue helicopters.
Wentworth Pass Loop is a 5km bushwalking track through the Blue Mountains National Park. Pictured: an emergency services worker at the scene on Monday