The shack owners who helped police in their search for Cleo Smith by handing over crucial CCTV evidence that captured the little girl’s voice have described the harrowing hours after she first went missing.
Dave Sadecky and his wife spent Saturday morning at a nearby beach, but when he finally reached phone reception he was flooded with more than 20 panicked phone calls as word of Cleo’s mysterious disappearance spread.
The life-long Carnarvon residents wasted no time in jumping on quadbikes and joining the desperate search, flanked by helicopters overhead in something Mr Sadecky said was “like a Mad Max film”.
The couple left Miaboolya Beach — one hour south of Quobba Point by car — and spent the next two hours scouring the coastline between the two spots.
“I didn’t know the ins and outs of what was going on but everyone was panicked,” Mr Sadecky said.
“People dropped everything and came to help … they were everywhere on Saturday like ants — it’s not a normal sight.”
The Blowholes regulars spent more than 10 hours searching “every nook and cranny” as part of the extravagant operation — only pausing to hand surveillance footage to police.
It was Mr Sadecky’s CCTV footage that placed the bright-eyed girl at the campsite on the Friday night. Mr Sadecky said it was a scene of heightened emotions as searchers feared the worst with every passing hour.
“Everyone was emotional, people were clearly stressed and anxious but wanted to help,” he said. “We’ve never had anything like this happen before. We’re there every other weekend, we’re kicking ourselves we weren’t there that night.”
He said the tragic incident would leave an indelible stain on the picturesque location, adored by tourists and locals.
“It will definitely be tainted,” Mr Sadecky said. “It’s changed the view of it already.”
The pair have been visiting the campgrounds since they were young and said it was an “old-school community” which “always looked out for each other”.
“People would leave their doors unlocked … kids run from camp to camp and say hello,” Mr Sadecky said. “It’s a family-orientated place to be and its own community. You know when someone’s not meant to be here.”