A missing three-year-old boy in Australia has been found safe after spending several days alone in the woods.
According to a press release from the New South Wales Police, Anthony “AJ” Elfalak was found by police on Monday around 11:30 a.m., three days after his family reported him missing.
AJ’s father, Anthony Elfalak, said it’s a miracle his son has been found.
AJ has autism and is non-verbal, making the ordeal even more worrying. The toddler was first reported missing around 12:30 p.m. on Friday after he disappeared from his family’s remote rural property in Putty, a village in New South Wales.
His family suspected he had been abducted when they failed to find any trace of him after hours of searching. They reported seeing a pickup truck nearby, but police didn’t believe anything suspicious was behind the boy’s disappearance.
Authorities quickly launched a search, and hundreds of emergency service volunteers and other agencies came in to assist, including NSW Ambulance, Rural Fire Service, State Emergency Service, and the Volunteer Rescue Association.
The police also utilized trail bike officers, divers, helicopter teams, and Dog and Mounted Unit to find the boy.
After three days of extensive searching, a police helicopter crew spotted AJ sitting in shallow water in a creek bed about 1,540 feet from his home.
The moment they located AJ was captured on camera, with the footage later posted on the NSW Police’s Twitter account. The video showed the toddler sitting alone in the wilderness, cupping water from the creek into his mouth.
The first team member who reached AJ saw him kneeling in the river bed.
“They put a hand on his shoulder and comforted him,” said Simon Merrick, NSW State Emergency chief inspector. “He actually took a knee on our rescuer’s knee and then actually, a big smile towards him, as well. And they embraced in that moment.”
The officer who approached him will never forget the “massive smile” the boy gave him.
AJ was later evaluated by NSW Ambulance paramedics, who confirmed that he was in “good condition.” He was then brought to the hospital for further observation.
Gerry Pyke, the paramedic who examined AJ, called him a “little survivor.”
“Little AJ’s condition was quite remarkable. He was very, very thankful. I could see that in his eyes,” he said.
As news of AJ’s survival reached his family, they burst into screams of happiness. They told 9News they “never gave up” hope that the boy was alive.
AJ fell asleep in the ambulance after being evaluated and reunited with his parents.
“He’s just clinging to mum,” Anthony said. “As soon as he heard his mum, he opened his eyes and looked at her and fell asleep.”
Pyke added that AJ woke up hungry and joked that he got “into about three slices of pizza and a banana so he’s pretty good.”
AJ’s only injuries were ant bites, diaper rash, and lacerations to his legs, so he’s expected to be okay. His mother, Kelly Elfalak, brought him home on Monday night to sleep on his own bed.
“I can’t explain it, I’m so blessed,” she told reporters. “I’m so happy that he is here. He’s with us, he’s safe and well and healthy, that’s all that matters.”
Police Superintendent Tracy Chapman said that AJ’s ability to find drinking water was considered a major factor in his survival. He didn’t suffer dehydration, even though he was alone in the woods for three days.
On Tuesday, AJ spent the day sleeping, eating, and playing with his toys.
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