He could have hit his head, broken his leg or have been bitten by a snake.
But 88-year-old Lionel Blatherwick miraculously survived a six-metre fall down an embankment into Weston’s Swamp Creek, where he was stuck for almost 18 hours.
The incident occurred on the night of September 25, when Mr Blatherwick went for a walk around 11pm.
He became disoriented and ended up in Tenth Street (a few blocks from his home), where he slipped and fell into the creek.
Mr Blatherwick’s day care nurses alerted his daughter, Brenda Waugh, that he was missing when they arrived to pick him up around 9am the following morning.
“Panic stations set in – it was very scary,” Ms Waugh said.
Ms Waugh thought her father might have walked to Kurri Kurri cemetery, as that Tuesday was the eighth anniversary of her sister Cindy’s death – but he wasn’t found there.
Word spread quickly and soon there were many family, friends and strangers helping the police search for Mr Blatherwick.
“There were lots of people out looking, I’ve got so much praise for the township,” Ms Waugh said.
Around 5pm – 18 hours after he left home – his granddaughter Carly Ruiz (Cindy’s daughter) spotted her grandfather in the creek at the dead-end of Tenth Street.
“She noticed a bird up in the trees, and looked down and there he was – down there covered in growth,” Ms Waugh said.
“It was like her mother guided her – like she was looking out for him.”
Ms Waugh said she, and many other nearby residents, are concerned about the overgrown vegetation and amount of dumped rubbish in the creek, fearing it is a fire and flood hazard.
“The vegetation was so thick, it took almost 40 minutes to get him out,” she said.
Ms Waugh was full of appreciation for the police, paramedics and Cessnock District Rescue Squad volunteers who brought her father to safety.
“They all did such a wonderful job,” she said.
Mr Blatherwick was taken to John Hunter Hospital and was transferred to Kurri Kurri Hospital four days later.
He came home last Wednesday, 16 days after the incident.
He returned to the scene with his daughter on Friday, still bearing a few cuts and bruises but in remarkably good spirits.
“I’ve learnt my lesson,” he said.
“It will be the last time I go for a walk on my own.”