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Heat kills man in desert breakdown

MARISSA CALLIGEROS
Last updated 11:53 07/11/2012

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A station worker has perished and another has been found close to death after the pair became stranded in the Simpson Desert in southwest Queensland.

Mauritz 'Mo' Pieterse, 25, and a co-worker, aged 30, left Ethabuka Station on Monday morning to work on a bore, but their Toyota Hilux four-wheel-drive became bogged about 16km south of the homestead.

The pair decided to walk back to the station after several failed attempts to free their vehicle.

But the men did not have enough water for the long journey in temperatures that reached 45 degrees.

The pair had managed to walk 6km in the harsh outback before Pieterse succumbed to the searing heat.

When the men didn’t return to the homestead by nightfall, others at the station set out looking for them.

Shortly after midnight, the 30-year-old man was found about 10km from the homestead and barely alive by a worker from the neighbouring Carlo Station.

Pieterse's body was found nearby.

Ethabuka Station, about 1600km west of Brisbane and 200km north of Birdsville, spans about 215,000 hectares in the north-east corner of the Simpson Desert.

Police Inspector Paul Biggin said it was not clear why the workers had left their vehicle to brave the unforgiving conditions without adequate water supplies.

"As to why they were caught out without water will be part of the investigation," he said.

Ethabuka Station is owned by the conservation group Bush Heritage Australia, which is helping regenerate the site after degradation caused by cattle and feral camels.

The group’s spokesman David Whitelaw said all staff on the station were trained to work out in the field and provided with the equipment they needed.

"It is a very tragic event," he told 612 ABC Radio, saying the police investigation into the circumstances was ongoing.

He said the group had offered its condolences to the dead man’s family in Western Australia.

The 30-year-old man is recovering in Mt Isa Hospital after suffering extreme dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Inspector Biggin said the tragic incident served as a warning to those travelling in Queensland’s outback.

"Obviously out in those temperatures with 45-plus degree heat people can deteriorate rapidly without sufficient fluids and it’s important you’re able to sustain yourself until rescue," he said.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is also investigating the death.

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- Brisbane Times

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