Three young Australian children survived a horrific car accident that claimed the lives of their parents – and then spent 55 harrowing hours in extreme heat before being rescued.
Parents Cindy Braddock, 25, and Jake Day, 28, were killed on Christmas Day when their Land Rover overturned on Corrigin-Kondinin Road, just a few miles from their Kondinin home in Western Australia, the local ABC reported.
The couple’s children — a 5-year-old girl, a 2-year-old boy and a 1-year-old boy — survived the terrible crash but had to endure 55 hours in the wreckage amid 86-degree weather.
The heroic girl managed to unbuckle her 1-year-old brother’s seatbelt and freed him from the car seat – which the family said likely saved his life.
Their 2-year-old brother remained strapped in his seat more than two days after the wreck.
The family was reported missing after they failed to make it to a Christmas celebration after they left Northam, about 50 miles east of Perth, and were heading home.
A gas station attendant in Northam told ABC that the family had stopped to fill up and buy snacks before they began their ill-fated drive.
“He told me he was heading to Kondinin and that it was a couple of hours drive,” Nathan O’Donnell told the outlet, referring to Day.
“He looked exhausted … he didn’t buy a coffee. Then he left, I told him, ‘Good luck with the long drive.’ Unfortunately, he never made it,” the employee said.
When they never showed up, Cindy’s sister Helen Braddock posted a message on Facebook asking for help.
“Has anyone seen Jake Day or Cindy Braddock since Christmas Day as they left Northam to go to Kondinin but haven’t made it home and haven’t made contact with anyone since,” she wrote.
When family friends finally found the wreck, the kids were suffering from extreme dehydration and were flown to Perth Children’s Hospital, where they are listed in stable condition.
Day’s cousin Michael Read told reporters that the orphaned children waited for help in the sweltering vehicle next to their dead parents.
“It would have been hard for the three children to be in the car for that whole time. Nobody knows what they went through,” he said, according to ABC.
“And if it wasn’t for the 5-year-old undoing the buckle of the 1-year-old’s car seat, he wouldn’t be with us today,” Read said. “But all the kids are doing fine. They should be out within the next couple of days.”
Local politician Darren Pool said residents were in shock over the tragedy.
“Being so close to town and no one had noticed it,” he said, the Guardian reported. “People have been driving past it for a couple of days. That’s probably the biggest shock for me.”
Read wondered about the tragic tots’ future.
“It is hard, having three kids now growing up with nobody — apart from other family members,” he told ABC. “We’re going bit by bit at the moment.”
He urged drivers to stop and rest if they feel tired behind the wheel.
“Know what your body limit is, don’t drive tired,” Read said. “If you’re going to want to be somewhere, stay the night at a family’s place. It’s not worth it.”
A GoFundMe page has raised almost $73,000 for the family.
“Devastatingly Jake and Cindy did not survive the accident but an angel was looking over the kids as it was a miracle their beautiful babies survived for over two days in Australian outback before being rescued,” organizers Casey Guyer and Kailee Wallace wrote.
“The children are currently in hospital with family and are all doing okay considering the circumstances,” they added.