Trapped and hurting from numerous fractures through his ageing body, a defiant Herbert Schutz survived four days in the elements by bunking down with his loyal kelpie, Boydy, to fight off the cold.
And even when helped arrived, three freezing nights after Mr Schutz was first pinned by his own car on his remote property near Rylstone, Boydy would not leave his master’s side until he was free.
Mr Schutz, 76, remained in a serious condition in John Hunter Hospital on Tuesday after two neighbours found him under his crashed four-wheel drive on Monday night.
He had been there since at least Friday, when he was able to escape from his wreck after it hit a tree only for it to roll and pin him.
Despite a fractured skull, two broken hips a dislocated shoulder – and without water or food – the tough old-timer stayed conscious for most parts of the day waiting for help to arrive.
It was to take three nights on the foot of the Nullo Mountains before it would come.
His worried daughter rang one of his neighbours, Eric Merritt, on Monday concerned about not being able to contact her father.
Mr Merritt and another Cox’s Creek resident, Julian Barrett, went in search of their mate and found him about 6pm.
‘‘We saw the car and that no one was in it,’’ Mr Merritt said.
‘‘It was dark and there were no lights on at his place.
‘‘Then his dog ran around the front of the car, and then we heard him call for the dog.
‘‘That’s when we found him.’’
Mr Merritt said his neighbour was still lucid as they worked to free him and called authorities.
He had Boydy’s hair all over him, a tell-tale sign that he had used some body warmth to battle against the falling temperatures at night – it had been getting as low as four degrees Celsius.
‘‘Even when we found him, the dog ran straight to his side and cuddled up to him, he didn’t want to leave him even then,’’ Mr Merritt said.
Mr Schutz also reported getting visits from several of his horses during his ordeal, although some serious internal injuries may be blamed on them after they accidentally trampled him walking around the wreckage.
He was stabilised at the scene and flown by Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter to John Hunter Hospital.
His daughter released a statement in which she said she wished to express ‘‘her deepest gratitude to neighbours for responding so quickly to her requests to check on his well-being after she could not get in contact with him’’.
‘‘She is extremely thankful to her neighbours for locating her father and then staying with him until the emergency and rescue services arrived,’’ the statement continued.
‘‘She wishes to thank the emergency and rescue services involved in her father’s rescue and transport.
‘‘She paid tribute to the ‘fantastic’ John Hunter Hospital staff involved in her father’s care.
“He is in very good care and is conscious and lucid at the moment, which is amazing given what he has been through,” she said.’’
The family thanked everyone for their concern and best wishes.
They asked that their privacy be respected and said they did not wish to make further comment at this time because they wanted to concentrate on being supportive to their father.