news

"A pack of them circled me." Parents of toddler snatched by a dingo speak for the first time.

Not many parents would say the sound of their baby crying past midnight fills them with a sense of relief.

But for Sarah and Luke Allister, their reactions to the sound of then-14-month-old Hunter’s cries on Good Friday went from sheer horror to just that in minutes. First fear, followed by a flurry of action, then a deep sense relief. He was alive.

Speaking to Charles Wooley on 60 Minutes tonight, the parents of Hunter Allister recall the nightmare of their son being snatched by a wild dingo during a family camping trip on Queensland’s Fraser Island. A night that “terror” doesn’t even begin to describe.

Watch part of the 60 Minutes segment below. Post continues after video.

Video by Channel Nine

“As soon as I saw it was blood dripping off my hand… Looking back on it and at the time, I was happy that he was crying because I was so scared and I did not want him to stop crying because if he stopped crying, I’m thinking, well yeah,” Hunter’s father Luke said of discovering his son’s injuries.

In a horrific incident no parent could even begin to imagine, Sarah and Luke’s son had been dragged out of the campervan by a dingo and into the bushes, while their four-year-old daughter lay asleep next to him.

Hunter suffered multiple puncture wounds to his neck and skull, requiring surgery at Brisbane’s Children Hospital. But had his parents not acted immediately, his injuries could have been fatal. Or worse still – had they not woken up to the sound of his cries – he could have never been seen again.

Hunter's head injuries. Image: 60 Minutes,
ADVERTISEMENT

"At about a bit after 12:00, I would have woken up to a cry," Sarah said in the first interview the family has given since the incident unfolded in April.

"I don't know exactly how long, but seconds, and his cry went from being inside the camper to outside… I don't know what went through my head, I just sat up and said 'Luke he's outside'."

Luke leapt from his bed to find the dingo dragging his son from the campervan - four feet off the ground - into the bushes.

"I just ran and yelled. I was running up to kick the dingo but I didn't have to. As soon as I got from me to your way, the dingo let go of him and he cowed," Luke said.

"I picked him up. To be honest with you, first instinct when I felt him, I just thought it was saliva. I was hoping it was just saliva (from the dog's mouth) but then realised there was a lot of blood."

ADVERTISEMENT
Sarah and Luke Allister with children Harper and Hunter. Image: 60 Minutes.

But before their son's serious injuries could be dealt with, Sarah emerged from the camper to find more dogs circling, as though attempting to sneak up and pull the child from his parents' grip.

"By the time I got out there I saw Luke in the bush and he sort of scooped up Hunter," Sarah recalled.

"That's when a pack of them circled me. They were, the way I felt, they were trying to do a sneak attack and try to pull Hunter out from behind me... It was shadows and glimpses of their eyes that you’d see."

Luke added: "I could tell they were trying to approach me from behind and it felt like they were trying to rip Hunter out of my arms. The adrenaline was kicking in."

Luke acted quickly, yelling and shooing the pack of dingoes away.

"As I lunged to them and yelled at them, they'll back off and there'll be another one trying to come up behind me... It's hard to say how many there were.

"If we all didn't do our part, we wouldn't have our boy still here and it was just we had to do it," he said when asked how he remained so calm.

For Sarah, the strongest memory of the night was waiting for help to arrive.

“It’s probably only 10 minutes [until help arrived], but it felt like an hour,” she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

It's Luke's rush of adrenaline and Sarah's quick action in calling for help which paramedics have praised following the incident, adding the parents did "everything right" as campers to avoid such an attack.

Luke and Hunter Allister. Image: 60 Minutes.

“I can state that the parents did everything right. They weren’t at fault in any way. From the dad’s description, everything was shut up tight when they went to bed,” paramedic Ben Du Toit previously told 9News.

On tonight's 60 Minutes segment, wildlife ranger Linda Behrendorff said she had no doubt the Allisters’ were spot on with their analysis of how the dingo gained access to the van.

She said a dingo could easily unzip a tent or break a fridge lock to get to what they want.

There are more than 300 wild dingoes on Fraser Island.

The attack on the toddler marks the third dingo attack on Fraser Island this year. In February, a nine-year-old boy and his mother were admitted to hospital after a dingo pack chased them down and mauled them.

It followed a January attack on a six-year-old boy who was bitten on the legs while camping with his family in the same area as the toddler.

This most recent incident has re-opened a debate amongst locals around the best way to avoid future attacks on the island, which more than 400,000 Aussies camp on each year.

00:00 / ???