A freak accident during a post-school fishing trip left 16-year-old Solomon Lee impaled on a jagged tree branch – without mobile phone coverage.
The teen, from Smiths Lake on the NSW Mid North Coast, was pinned fast by his quad bike on the isolated track shortly after 5pm on March 3.
"Towards the end I thought I was gonna die," said Solomon, a keen surfer, recounting his ordeal as calmly as if he was measuring the sets rolling into nearby Seal Rocks.
"I was bleeding a bit – not major, but could see lines dropping off onto the ground. Because the bike was upside down petrol was coming out of the breather, dropping everywhere.
"I had to put my leg on the [hot] muffler to get comfortable. It didn't burn it too bad," he said, indicating dotted scars on his right thigh.
Solomon hit a tree root at about 8km/h while reversing from a stall, flipping the bike up and jamming him onto the branch which pierced high and through to his left thigh.
The year 10 student at Forster High School thought his leg was broken but wasn't in pain. He yelled for help while trying to push the bike off with his right leg so he could roll free.
After struggling unsuccessfully for at least 20 minutes, he took his phone which luckily he had just placed in his bag.
"Everything in the basket flew in the bush [in the crash]," he said. "I could just reach my bag ... No bars. You're kidding me."
Solomon often fished until late and would have been trapped "at least" until 10pm before anyone checked up. As he lay there, he had split-second flashbacks to catching waves.
He became really scared when his trapped leg went numb. "I lost all feeling in my leg, I tried to move it, the nerve just felt dead, that's when I started to get really scared cos I love surfing."
He went into shock. "I was kicking the bike as my body wigged out, my eyes were rolling back in my head."
At 5.45pm, he received one bar on his Optus network. "To get one bar there is ridiculous," he said. "You never get service. Never. There's definitely someone watching over me."
It lasted long enough for him to send one text – "need help" – to his dad, Otto.
"That could have meant anything," said Otto, 42, still visibly shaken days later. Moments later, Solomon's blackspot fog cleared long enough for a brief phone call. "He was screaming 'Dad come quick'," said Otto.
He and Solomon's mum Cilla, 40, drove fast to where they thought he might be. "I looked up into the bushes and saw the blue of the quad bike," said Cilla. "We just bolted."
They couldn't quite right the bike and Solomon slid back down the branch. "It hurt so much," he said.
When one of his mates arrived, who he'd also managed to contact, the trio freed him, realised he'd been impaled and fixed a tourniquet.
Emergency services were alerted and Cilla, a registered nurse, checked her "pale and exhausted" son's vital signs, which were strong.
An air ambulance choppered him to Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital in 18 minutes, where he was referred to as the "miracle kid" and released five days later. His parents said the emergency services and medical staff were "just wonderful".
The branch now sits on its stump in the Lees' back yard. Otto has named it "rhino horn".