Shantelle Johnson, 18, and her partner Colon Nulgit, 20, from the East Kimberley town of Kununurra, went missing with their puppy Ace in a remote part of the Northern Territory that is known to be riddled with crocodiles.
The couple, who set out on Sunday, told the ABC they couldn’t sleep during the 26 hours they were stranded, as they had seen crocodile tracks before their vehicle became bogged.
Despite spending the night in their car, they were hardly able to sleep. As the tide rose, they feared the waters would bring crocodiles closer to the vehicle.
The young couple had set off on the weekend for the Keep River National Park near the border of Western Australia, telling family and friends they were leaving for a fishing trip and when they expected to be home.
But when they didn’t return home overnight, their family became alarmed and alerted police.
The couple lit spot fires and scratched a large “HELP” and an arrow into the mud near their vehicle in the hope rescue crews searching for the couple would have an easier time identifying them from the sky.
“We tried digging, and we tried putting stuff under the tyres, but it didn’t budge,” Ms Johnson told the ABC.
“We were stuck on the marshland, and we were right next to saltwater,” said Mr Nulgit.
He said earlier in the day the couple had seen crocodile tracks, five or six metres long.
“We stayed in the car the first night and then we saw the water rising,” he said.
“We grabbed everything and took it about 20, 30 metres from the car.”
Police organised a co-ordinated search effort for the couple using a fixed-wing plane. “The plane crew comprised a pilot, a trained spotter from Kununurra Police and an SES volunteer,” WA Police said in a statement.
The young couple heard the plane in the distance and lit a fire to get the attention of the pilot.
Miraculous video shows the crew locating the couple in a remote location known as “Barra Farm”, an area north of Legune Cattle Station in the Keep River National Park.
“If they had not lit the fire and advised family members details of when they were departing and an expected return time, the couple may not have been located,” WA Police said in a statement.