The parents of an Australian surfer who went missing with three mates off Indonesia have revealed the first words their daughter said to them after being rescued following a frantic two-day search.
Steph Weisse, along with partner Elliot Foote, Will Teagle and Jordan Short disappeared late on Sunday off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia after their charter boat hit rough weather.
Parents Jill and Wayne Weisse told Today show host Sarah Abo that it was an “amazing feeling” to finally hear from their daughter as news flooded in on Tuesday morning that the group had been found.
“I was downstairs because the phones just didn‘t stop, and I heard Wayne just scream upstairs,” Jill said on Wednesday.
“I just thought, ‘Oh my god, someone’s rung to tell us bad news’. Then I heard him laughing and then I heard him say, ‘Hey Steph’.
“It was just the most unbelievable feeling. I really was preparing myself for the worst.
“To hear her voice, crackly as it was, and she sounded very tired. She said, ‘I love you, but we haven‘t found Elliot’.
“So, she had to go. They had to go and find him, but we knew she was OK.
“I really feared none of them would be found (…) It’s a happy story for us.”
Mr Weisse said Mr Foote had made the “tough decision” to go for help, adding that it was a “miracle” the group were reunited.
The four surfers, all from NSW, were in Indonesia for Mr Foote’s 30th birthday party when tragedy struck.
The group were travelling from North Nias Island off north Sumatra to Aceh‘s Banyak Island after adventuring inland.
The wooden charter boat was reported missing by a resort in Indonesia’s restive western province, sparking a widespread search.
Indonesian rescue crews were dispatched on Sunday night before being joined by local fisherman and an Australian known to the family.
Jill said the family weren’t made aware their daughter had disappeared until Monday when they received a phone call from authorities.
“We were maybe preparing ourselves for the worst, but we were also very hopeful,” she said.
“When you get a call to say your daughter is missing at sea and there‘s a storm, you try and be positive.
“Friends were contacting us saying, ‘She’s really strong. She’s really tough. There are islands’.
“We knew they had surfboards, but you just can’t help thinking, ‘Oh my god it’s the ocean and it’s night-time’. It was very scary.”
The family, along with those of the other three missing surfers, scrambled on Monday and Tuesday to help find the group.
Steph’s sister, Amy, put out the call for help on social media alongside the Broulee Surf Life Saving Club and local surf groups.
By midday on Tuesday, the first video came in of the group being found floating on their surfboards.
Steph can be heard on the video asking after Mr Foote, whose first texts to father Peter were broadcast live.
Peter had been the public face of the frantic search and said he hoped the pair would stay in Aceh and enjoy their holiday.
Likewise, while the Weisses said they wanted to give their daughter a “huge hug”, they wanted the pair to enjoy the birthday trip.
“We did speak to both of them on the island and considering their ordeal, they were shaky,” Jill said.
“Steph‘s only little, so they must have been exhausted. She was sunburnt and has nothing. Everything’s at the bottom of the ocean.
“But she was bright, and I think what they will do is stay there and just deep breathe – debrief and massage one another.
“They’ll talk it out and come home when they‘re ready. It’s probably the best place for them.”
On Wednesday, one of the three Indonesian crew people on-board the boat when it disappeared was still missing.
Jill said she was sad the person had not yet been found and lauded the efforts of local authorities.