Bush Boy

Reporter: Graeme Butler

Exhausted, dehydrated but alive 14 year old Dennis Dear survived scorching conditions lost in the bush. The teenager with autism and cerebral palsy put basic survival techniques he learned at cub scouts into action to survive an ordeal that could easily have claimed his life. The ordeal began in the middle of Perth's heatwave; Dennis and his dad peter were riding quad bikes in forest south east of the city when the pair became separated after Peter's bike broke down.

Dennis was lost, he had no food or water - he set off on foot - and come across a private property but no-one was home he kept going. With no-one home Dennis walked on trying to follow bush tracks but he was becoming more and more lost. A massive air and ground search had now swung into action but without knowing how far Dennis had travelled on the quad the search area spread for hundreds of kilometres - his family and Mum Kaye could do little but wait in the bush.

As the temperature soared Dennis knew he had to put into practice some lifesaving skills he's learned years before. The teenager also left a trail of arrows drawn in the sand... he rubbed dirt onto face and body to help keep cool. As day turned into night - Dennis was in for a long night it had been more than 16 hours since he'd had a drink. In the morning Dennis headed off again as did the massive search - but time was running out.

By mid-morning temperatures were hovering at around 42 degrees there were very real fears Dennis would succumb to dehydration. Experts predicted that he could have as little as 2 hours left. But 27 hours after becoming lost the teenager spotted a search team he was saved. "Well people have died in less than eight hours in less heat than that 0.40 so for someone to stay alive for over 24 hours is quite remarkable in 42 degree heat" Bob Cooper is an Outback survival expert - he says planning and knowledge is the key to survival - but knowing how to locate water is simply a life saver.

"You can put plastic bags over non-toxic trees and I've seen one clear plastic bag over a tree branch produce nearly a litre in a day and that's life saving stuff and you can use birds and animal tracks to lead you to water. Seed eating birds always fly to water in a straight line, when they've had a drink they fly in a haphazard coming back"As close as the situation came to tragedy Kaye says she believed in her son's ability to survive. "I was with him when he did the thing on the grasstree so and the other what else he learned like sucking on a rock or whatever i was with i had remembered and i thought yeah he'll remember that"