'A long and lonely night' How Andy survived being trapped under his car

Andy Gordon. Contributed photo
Andy Gordon. Contributed photo

Andy Gordon was driving home to Thumb Creek just before dusk on Monday evening after a shopping trip to Macksville.

As anyone who's driven out to the farthest reaches of the Valley's arms knows, it's a fairly decent drive.

Some way along the journey, the call of nature was insistent enough for him to pull over for relief.

"I left the engine running and I assumed I'd pulled up on a fairly level surface," he said.

He quickly realised that wasn't the case when his open car door slammed into the back of him as the vehicle rolled down the hill.

"The door clipped me, grabbed me and spun me around, knocking me to the ground. Then the car started to slide sideways as well as rolling backwards," he said.

Andy's leg became pinned between the underside of the ute and a log he'd fallen onto.

Luckily the door became wedged on a rock, preventing the still-sliding vehicle from travelling any further down the steep embankment.

Trapped between his ute and a hard place, Andy did everything within his power to free himself, but soon realised it was futile.

He tried to use his phone to call for help, but that too was of no use. And this is one lesson he'd dearly like to impart on the rest of us:

I'd always assumed that the 'emergency call' function that comes up on your mobile phone when you're out of signal range would work in an emergency situation - that maybe it was hooked up to satellite. And everyone I've talked to since was of the same opinion. But that's clearly not the case.

Andy Gordon

"Now what happened to me was a one-off - like being hit by lightning. But there are people in a whole range of more common situations - like bushfires - who might need to know this information."

Without the use of his mobile, Andy tried a more analogue way of alerting people to his plight - by periodically beeping out S.O.S. in morse code with his car horn, just within reach.

After a while night fell properly and it dawned on Andy he'd be spending the night there.

He decided he needed to preserve energy, so he turned his focus inward.

"I've been living out in the bush by myself, so I consider myself pretty self reliant," he said.

"I came to peace with the situation very quickly."

He calmed his breath and found a meditative state.

"Psychologically I felt like I was on top of it. I don't think I felt any fear - I couldn't afford to waste any time or energy on it anyway," he said.

Still, it was a long and lonely night.

As morning dawned and the cows started rustling, Andy again attempted to honk for help.

He guesses that it was around 9am - a good 14 hours after he became trapped - that a distant neighbour heard the commotion and came to inspect while out on a walk.

"That feeling was sheer relief," Andy said.

The saviour's name was Brett and he ran to get a vehicle and more help from his father, Ian, and another neighbour.

After they assessed the situation all decided it was best to not try to move the vehicle on their own, and called for help.

Soon police, paramedics, fire and rescue, and the rescue chopper had all arrived.

Andy said he commends the response time of the emergency services which attended his accident that morning - "well within the parameters of a well-run service".

They deserve a big shout out. I'm a construction rigger and I know in these sorts of situations you've got to think on your feet. They were fantastic, and they have my utmost respect.

After securing Andy's vehicle, they jacked up the car and stretchered him away to the chopper which airlifted him to the Port Macquarie Base Hospital.

Photo by NSW Ambulance

Photo by NSW Ambulance

Andy was in the Intensive Care Unit until last night.

"But I'm alright. The fact they've released me from ICU is a good sign that my recovery is progressing," he said.

One of Andy's ribs was fractured in the ordeal, causing his lung to deflate.

But it was his left leg that copped the brunt of the injuries after being crushed, its circulation cut off for around 16 hours.

He's undergone a couple of operations already, with more to come.

"I'm starting to get a little bit of sensitivity back to four out of five toes. Although I still can't move my toes or ankle yet," he said.

Still, Andy has nothing but gratitude in his heart, for the responding emergency services crews, for the expert medical and nursing staff attending to him, and especially for his rescuers.

"I'd never met the bloke before, but it turns out that Brett is the top bloke that everyone says he is," Andy said.

"I won't forget it, that's for sure."

When disaster strikes and you're out of range

According to triplezero.com.au, people can call the alternative emergency number 112 from a mobile phone, even if the keypad is locked, your phone is out of credit, or out of range of your regular network carrier.

The big caveat here is that you must be in range of another mobile network for this function to work - something which is of no use in many rural blackspot areas.

"'SOS only typically means that your phone is outside the coverage area of the service providers you're contracted to; however, if you are still within range of somebody's mobile network, you will still be able to make a triple-zero call," Chris Althaus, from the Australia Mobile Telecommunications Association, said in a 2017 interview with the ABC.

"The coverage is the critical thing - if there's no coverage, then no mobile will work."

"If you're heading to the outback, you might want to consider other options, like two-way radio, CB radio, high-frequency radios, or have a flare with you ... you shouldn't rely on having your phone with you, because it might not work."

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