Keilor Downs man Julio Ascui found in Grampians National Park

UPDATE 3.35pm:

AN avid hiker and father of two who had been lost in the Grampians for five days says he feels "really well" after being found.

Julio 'Lester' Ascui, from Keilor Downs, had been missing since Friday, last posting a photo from Halls Gap on social media.

The Keilor Downs man was found alive on Wednesday morning with only cuts and bruises.

He was taken to Stawell Hospital.

Mr Ascui was found by Parks Victoria staff sitting next to a creek which he drank from in order to survive.

"I was just coming to trek and I was lost for five days," Mr Ascui told reporters on Wednesday morning.

"There's a little river, I came every morning to fill up my bottle."

Asked how he felt after being rescued, the 50-year-old said the moment was amazing.

"I was really thirsty," he said. "I'm feeling really well," he said.

Mr Ascui appeared to be in remarkably high spirits after his rescue, walking with police and eating a banana, his tattered clothes the only sign of his incredible survival story.

His son Joshua Ascui told reporters he thought his father had died. "There are no words that can describe how I'm feeling right now. I thought I knew what happiness was. I didn't know what happiness was until today. I'm just overwhelmed."

Joshua described his Chilean-born father as "the heart of the family". "We've even got relatives overseas boarding flights as we speak on the way to come and help. Everyone just loves him."

Sergeant Karen Baine of Halls Gap police said everyone was elated. "I've been in the the job for a long time, I've never had anything like this, such a good result after such a long time," she said.


An avid hiker and father of two who had been lost in the Grampians for five days has been found alive.

Julio 'Lester' Ascui, from Keilor Downs, has been missing since Friday, last posting a photo from Halls Gap on social media.

The Keilor Downs man was found alive on Wednesday morning, police say.

His cousin Luis Ascui said he was "ecstatic".

The 50-year-old's car was located by family members at a car park on the corner of Stoney Creek Road and Rosea Track in Halls Gap at 5pm on Sunday. 

Desperate family members, friends and SES workers spent five days searching for Mr Ascui.

EMERGENCY services have launched a large-scale search and rescue operation in the Grampians in a bid to find a Keilor Downs man.

Julio Ascui, 50, also known as Lester, was reported missing after he had failed to contact family members since Friday.

Family members found his car at a carpark on the corner of Stoney Creek Road and Rosea Track in Halls Gap at 5pm on New Year’s Eve.

Police believe the car had been parked there since Friday.

Julio Ascui, 50,

Julio Ascui, 50,

Halls Gap Sergeant Karen Bain said there were no leads at this stage, but police didn’t suspect foul play. 

“We have grave concerns for his welfare,” she said. “No one knows what his intentions were or where he is.”

Sergeant Bain said State Emergency Service volunteers, police officers, Parks Victoria representatives and search and rescue specialists were in the park.

“We started the search on New Year’s Eve at 3pm, when the car was found,” she said.

“Prior to that, we had no idea where he was or if he was even in the Grampians.”

Sergeant Bain said the search had continued until nightfall every day since.

“The terrain is so harsh in the park that we don’t want to put anyone else at risk,” she said. She likened the case to the search for St Kilda man Gerard VanDerWerf in 2016.

Mr VanDerWerf went missing in September 2016 and still has not been found.

Sergeant Bain said police did not know what Mr Ascui had taken with him or what he was wearing.

Mr Ascui’s son-in-law Andrew Chahine said the family had not given up hope.

He said more than 25 friends and family had joined the search. “It is peak season in the Grampians, so there is nowhere for anyone to stay, so we keep coming and going,” he said. He said Mr Ascui enjoyed rock-climbing.

Mr Ascui’s daughter Jessica Ascui Ordonez said it was not normal for her father to go out without telling anyone. Mr Ascui is 165 centimetres tall, bald, of medium build and tanned.

He was last seen wearing a blue and white weatherproof jacket with a blue T-shirt and brown baseball cap.

Police have urged anyone with information to call Halls Gap Police Station on 5356 4411.