Page last updated at 08:21 GMT, Sunday, 7 June 2009 09:21 UK

Tourist clings to Australia train


Chad Vance records his terrifying journey on his digital camera

A teenage American tourist says he spent two hours clinging to the side of a long-distance train as it sped across the Australian outback in the night.

Chad Vance said he had to leap onto The Ghan as it left the station at Port Augusta, South Australia, after he had disembarked during a 40-minute stop.

He became cold and tired as the train reached speeds of up to 110km/h (70mph) on the journey to Alice Springs.

Engineer Marty Wells finally heard his yells and applied the emergency brake.

Mr Vance, quoted in the Herald Sun, said: "I feel very lucky to be alive."

'Instinctive' reaction

He thought he had timed his return to the station accurately, but as the train pulled away he ran after it along the tracks.

When it stopped soon afterwards, he said he spent five minutes trying to attract the attention of passengers on board by shouting and banging the windows.

When we rescued him his skin was white and his lips were blue

Marty Wells
Train engineer

"People were looking at me but did nothing," he said.

With his luggage and passport on board, he decided to grab a handrail in a stairwell.

"Call it instinct, but I just went for it and I didn't even consider if I would be in any trouble."

Dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and boots, Mr Vance, 19, said he was worried "my hands would get so cold and numb that I might lose my grip and fall off".

After two hours, he saw one staff member inside and started banging and yelling.

"He heard me, but he didn't know where the noise was coming from, I could see him walking around and looking for me inside the train.

"He alerted other staff members but they couldn't find me either - I guess they didn't think someone could actually be outside the train!"

Describing the situation as "real scary", Mr Vance said he was relieved when ten minutes later Mr Wells spotted him and pulled the emergency brake.

"Marty was absolutely a life saver, he was amazing, I could have died without his help."

Mr Wells agreed.

"When we rescued him his skin was white and his lips were blue.

"We were still about three hours away from our next scheduled stop and in that time he could easily have died of hypothermia or lost his grip and fallen to his death," he was quoted as saying in the Sunday Territorian.

Mr Vance said he had not told his parents about the train escapade "because I don't want them to worry about me while I'm away."

The Ghan travels from Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin, taking two nights to cover 2,979km.

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