Police using anything they can get their hands on in desperate Bluff Knoll search

Jessica CuthbertAlbany Advertiser
Video38-year-old Lorjie Tonguia Bautista was last seen near Bluff Knoll on Tuesday

Police say they are using “anything they can get their hands on” in a desperate search for a woman who could have spent three nights exposed to the elements on Bluff Knoll.

Perth woman Lorjie Tonguia Bautista, 38, was reported missing on Thursday afternoon after leaving the Stirling Range Retreat to climb Bluff Knoll about 4am on Tuesday.

Great Southern Police District Office Senior Inspector Alex Ryan said dozens of police officers and State Emergency Service volunteers were being bolstered in their search efforts by police air wing, civilian aircraft and a tracker dog.

Great Southern Police District Office Senior Inspector Alex Ryan.
Camera IconGreat Southern Police District Office Senior Inspector Alex Ryan. Credit: Jessica Cuthbert

“We’ve got some defined search areas that we’re working through,” Insp. Ryan said.

“Those areas encompass the entire top of the mountain and down. The terrain is difficult as I’ve said and that is having some bearing on how far we can actually physically search on foot.

“We have a lot of air support. We’ve had civilian air craft up there. We have police air win using FLIR (thermal imaging) technology — they’ll continue to search this afternoon, into the evening and throughout the next few days.”

Police officers searching for Lorjie Bautista at Bluff Knoll.
Camera IconPolice officers searching for Lorjie Bautista at Bluff Knoll. Credit: Jessica Cuthbert

Insp. Ryan said Ms Bautista’s husband contacted the retreat concerned about her whereabouts. She had checked out of the retreat.

A staff member from the retreat then saw her Subaru hatchback in the Bluff Knoll car park and reported her missing to police.

“She told her family she was going to climb Bluff Knoll. She’s on days off and it was something she wanted to do,” Insp. Ryan said.

SES volunteers involved in the search at Bluff Knoll.
Camera IconSES volunteers involved in the search at Bluff Knoll. Credit: Jessica Cuthbert

Temperatures dropped below zero near Bluff Knoll just before 6am this morning.

A minimum of -0.5C was recorded at the Stirling South weather station.

That station is about 10km from Bluff Knoll and near ground level so it would have been even colder closer to the peak.

SES volunteers searching at Bluff Knoll.
Camera IconSES volunteers searching at Bluff Knoll. Credit: Jessica Cuthbert

Insp. Ryan said those planning to climb Bluff Knoll should be prepared for a “dramatic change in weather”.

“Overnight temperatures are pretty low so we’re concerned about that in relation to her welfare,” Insp. Ryan said.

“But the terrain is particularly difficult. It’s precipitous and very hard to search.”

“We’ll keep going. She’s a 38-year-old woman. She’s in good health, she’s got reasonable clothing on. We’ll continue to search.”

Glenn Freeman from Parks and Wildlife.
Camera IconGlenn Freeman from Parks and Wildlife. Credit: Jessica Cuthbert

SES Great Southern district officer Gary Logan said crews were searching a “two to three kilometre area” today after abandoning the search after nightfall yesterday.

“We have crews from Albany, Mt Barker, Denmark and Gnowangerup searching on foot, with the assistance of a helicopter and search dog from the Albany SES Unit.”

“There terrain is thick and rugged. At this stage we are looking for the missing woman and signs of her being here.

“We do have grave concerns for her welfare.”

The scene at Bluff Knoll.
Camera IconThe scene at Bluff Knoll. Credit: WA Police

Police have examined the missing woman’s car, a Subaru hatchback which was found at Bluff Knoll car park.

It is understood a staff member at the nearby Stirling Range Retreat reported the woman missing after she had not been seen for two days.

A WA Police spokeswoman said they were notified about 1.30pm on Thursday.

The scene near Bluff Knoll on Friday morning.
Camera IconThe scene near Bluff Knoll on Friday morning. Credit: Jessica Cuthbert

Ms Bautista was wearing a grey jumper, black jacket, blue jeans and red/black runners.

She is described as olive skinned and about 157cm tall with a slim build and black hair.

Late yesterday, Mr Gary Logan described conditions as “clear but very cool”.

“It’s also getting dark,” he said.

“Our crews are still searching in the nearby area here near the car park — and once complete we will reassess from there.

“At this stage we're planning to bring up more teams tomorrow at first light.”

Anyone with information regarding her whereabouts is asked to contact police on 131 444.

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