Elderly SA farmer missing in Botswana

2011-10-07 10:34

Mbombela - A farmer from Badfontein outside Lydenburg has been missing for three weeks in the Chobe National Park in Botswana after he went looking for help when his Land Rover got stuck in sand.

Search teams in Botswana have been searching for John Bullen, 80, after he left his wife Lorraine, 78, in the vehicle on September 14 and went looking for help with an axe, some water, a bag of food and a GPS.

“We hope and pray that they will find something of his somewhere, even if it is his remains, because it is terrible not knowing,” said his daughter-in-law, Estelle Bullen.

Lorraine spent five days in the Land Rover before Dutch tourists, who had also gotten lost, found her.

Short cut

Botswana police spokesperson assistant superintendent Christopher Mbalawa confirmed that the search for Bullen was continuing.

The Bullens left for a 10-day holiday in Botswana on September 11.

On September 13 they went to the Chobe National Park where they were to spend the night at the Savuti camp.

On the way they decided to go to another camp where they had spent a night years ago.

When they got there, the camp was locked up. Local people advised the couple to drive on a certain road, which was a short cut to the next camp.

“They drove off and at a stage my mother-in-law said the road was going nowhere and they should turn around. That was when they got stuck in the sand of a dry riverbed,” said her daughter-in-law.

“They tried to get out but nothing worked and no one came by to help them.

“The next day in the afternoon [on Wednesday] he decided to look for help.”

Last 500ml of water

“He told my mother if they stayed there, they would both die because no one had found them. It almost happened.”

She said her mother-in-law remained in the vehicle.

When the Dutch tourists - who also took the local people’s advice at the camp - found Bullen on Monday afternoon, she was on her last 500ml bottle of water.

The tourists pulled the Land Rover out of the sand and took her to a nearby military base.

Search teams from Botswana’s army, police, anti-poaching unit and nature conservation launched foot patrols and a search from the air.

  • John - 2011-10-07 10:42

    shame,doubt they will find him alive but at 80 he also should have waited with his wife, men half his age also would have had little chance of making it.

      LBS - 2011-10-07 14:17

      Probably eaten by lions by now. Shame.

      dithala - 2011-10-07 14:24

      Even the Khoisan have heard Malema's song.

  • Caz - 2011-10-07 11:03

    Thats Heart breaking, my heart goes out to his family. hope they find him!!

  • DW - 2011-10-07 11:09

    The rule is - never ever go into unknown territory where you could get stuck alone. Never. I really hope they find him. The area has plenty of wild animals.

  • macdsibs - 2011-10-07 11:09

    very sad

  • jojo3400 - 2011-10-07 11:13

    The story was published in Nelspruit in the Laevelder a week ago and according to their report he had 5 litres of water. Very sad though, he is one of 11 that went missing in the Chobe over the past three years.

  • Crispy_Duck - 2011-10-07 11:24

    Damn....sorry for the family, but he's unlikely to be alive. The likelihood is that he either died of exposure or got taken by an animal. Let this be a lesson....never leave your vehicle and stay on marked roads.

  • DEVILS SON - 2011-10-07 11:33

    i used to field guide, 3 weeks, not a good sign....good luck out there Sir

  • GT - 2011-10-07 11:36

    Never understand why guys don't take a darn SAT phone. They are so cheap these days. Add a GPS and you are never more than a phone call from direct rescue.

  • Gareth - 2011-10-07 11:36

    Having worked in that area I'm not optomistic that he'll be found alive. That being said, the area is prime survival land if you have a 'clue', and since he's a farmer i'm sure he felt confident that he would be fine. Loads of Predators there though. Very friendly locals so if he's been found by them i'm sure they would have helped. Best wishes to his worried fmaily.

      DEVILS SON - 2011-10-07 11:42

      without a rifle his chances wont be good unless he is well versed and experienced in animal behavior, where to walk where not to, as well as warning calls of native birds and prey species, locating water, edible plants.... but 3 weeks without a sign (sad)

  • MnrFotograaf - 2011-10-07 11:46

    This again shows why people should not drive alone in these places.

  • Charles Kane - 2011-10-07 11:57

    Ah but what a beautiful place to die. I'll take that over cancer or alzheimer's any day.

  • Debonaire - 2011-10-07 11:59

    Locals are damned irresponsible - should never have indicated that road given that two lots of people got lost.Botswana is not tourist friendly at the best of times.They are only interested in celebrities who can fly in and fly out - disgraceful that is

      Sandgrazer - 2011-10-07 12:24

      Why call the locals irresponsible, the old man was behind the steering wheel not so? Anyway, if you want tourist friendly go to Sun City my friend and leave the wilderness untouched by us who can enjoy, appreciate and respect it.

  • dithala - 2011-10-07 12:23

    Too good to be true, His wife should be the first suspect. They are naive not to know that the hand of the law, is too long, aren't they?

      LBS - 2011-10-07 14:23

      Oh go on man! She was found 5 DAYS later! Go and read Piet Byleveld's book, it should keep you busy

  • GypseyAnn - 2011-10-07 13:13

    This story is really sad and I hope he is found soon. Nothing is lost in the eyes of God so believe that he will be found. God Bless!

  • Owen - 2011-10-07 13:35

    First rule of survival in any place when you breakdown or get stuck is to stay with your vehicle because at some point someone will come past and if you get desperate is to make a fire which makes alot of smoke and dept of wild life will notice it,i feel sorry for the family on their loss.I know of army patrols on horseback that have been i presume been taken by lions in the chobe game reserve when i was working there a few years back.

  • FFS - 2011-10-07 14:12

    People used to laugh at me because I was 'over prepared' when I went on Safari throughout Africa. There is no such thing as over prepared in the African bush. I doubt there will be a successful outcome to this one, but one never knows. First mistake was taking a Landie!

  • Eastafrican - 2011-10-07 14:48

    Very sad. Been in that situation before 2 years ago and it took 6 hours of very hard work to get my vehicle out, surrounded by wild animals including lions that we passed less than a kilometer away. Had to walk 50+ meters away from the vehicle every time to cut branches from trees through knee deep water/mud. It was a bad day. And I was a very fit 48yr old. With this person being 80yrs old he does not really stand a chance. How far can he walk? Cannot really run or climb in trees at that age anymore. I do hope for the best but his chances is extremely slim.

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