It took three stressful days for rescuers to locate 3-year-old Casey Hathaway after the boy went missing in the woods behind a relative’s North Carolina home, WQAD reports.
“He was walking in the woods back there and we can’t find him,” his great-grandmother relayed in a call to 911. “The other ones come through the house, but left him there and he walked off somewhere and we can’t find him.”
The family had searched for about 45 minutes before calling 911.
That 911 call kicked off an aggressive search that ultimately lasted for days, including personnel from the FBI, NCIS, and the Marines. K-9 units, drones, and helicopters were all called into action, as were divers who searched a number of ponds located nearby. The 25-pound toddler, who is barely two-feet-tall, remained outdoors through conditions so poor that the rescue efforts needed to be suspended more than once due to cold and rain.
In all, more than 100 volunteers and professionals searched about 1,000 acres over the three-day operation, according to Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes. Due to the extreme cold, officials had become discouraged and pessimistic after the second day with no sign of the boy.
“Today, hundreds of professional searchers and volunteers walked through rough terrain around the home to try and locate Casey,” the Craven County Sheriff’s Office reported on day two. “Volunteers were sent home for the night due to safety concerns. Professionally trained searchers will continue to work overnight. Additional search assets will return in the morning.”
Missing 3-year-old boy Casey Lynn Hathaway has been found alive in North Carolina, an FBI spokeswoman says https://t.co/Dsvv3eU8i3
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) January 25, 2019
Police and rescuers continued to implore neighbors to check surrounding property for any sign of young Hathaway. The tips provided indeed helped teams to zero in on the boy’s location.
“It was folks giving us tips and leads,” said Hughes. “We hit every one of them immediately and it paid off.”
On the third day, one such tip led rescuers to a location close enough to hear Hathaway calling out for his mother. After following the voice for about 45 yards, he was found. Hathaway was immediately taken to the hospital for observation, but was found in good health other than being cold.
He told deputies that he spent two days hanging out with a bear. The bear has not been confirmed.
Hathaway is now reported in good health and seems to have no lasting damage from the ordeal.
“He’s good, he’s up and talking,” his mother said. “He’s already asked to watch Netflix, so he’s good.”
After initial concerns about the possibility of abduction, authorities no longer suspect foul play.