A DRAMATIC search in the Newnes Plateau area ended on a happy note mid-afternoon on Thursday when searchers found a man and his two grandsons who had been missing since the previous evening.
The three set out from their Lithgow home on Wednesday for a school holiday adventure to the Glowworm Tunnel, on the outskirts of Lithgow.
The man in his 60s and the boys aged nine and 12 are understood to be Lithgow residents.
The alarm was raised when they had not returned by nightfall.
But an easterly weather change that sent temperatures plummeting and brought in low cloud and misty rain hampered search efforts.
At the time the trio set out on their excursion the temperature was around 29 degrees but it dropped overnight to a chilly 12.
Search parties entered the rugged bushland at first light on Thursday after the cloud cover lifted.
After some hours searching, the man’s white Nissan four-wheel-drive was found in the car park at the Rocky Creek Canyon, several kilometres away from the party’s intended destination.
There was no sign of the trio.
Concerns were being heightened by the fact that the grandfather was reported to be an insulin-dependant diabetic who had his last injection on Wednesday morning.
It was also believed the party had little or no food with them when they set out.
A police helicopter crew, police from Lithgow, the Blue Mountains and Hill End, as well as Lithgow Volunteer Rescue and Rural Fire Service, were involved in the search.
Because of the holidays there were several bushwalkers, campers, trail bikers and canyoners in the Newnes Plateau area, but they told the search parties they had seen no sign of the three.
Around 2.45 yesterday afternoon the police helicopter, Polair 5, radioed the good news that the missing group had been spotted in thick bushland where it was not possible to land.
A crewman was winched down to confirm that this was indeed the missing party and that all appeared well.
The helicopter returned to Lithgow after directing a ground party to the scene where the man and boys were assessed by paramedics.
Yesterday’s drama was the fourth major bush rescue operation within a few kilometres of Lithgow since Friday.