The remarkable story of three-year-old Jude Leyton surviving three days alone in a forest in eastern Ontario began last Sunday as he helped his grandfather, Chris Fisher, to build a swing in his workshop.
“It came out for a few seconds and I didn’t think much about it at the time,” Fisher told UKTN News. “And maybe less than a minute later I walked out and there was no sign of him.”
Leyton had wandered through the woods surrounding the family fishing lodge on Canoe Lake Road in the South Frontenac area, about 50 kilometers north of Kingston, Ont., Sparking a frantic search of the rugged, hilly terrain.
About 100 police and search and rescue volunteers, as well as two helicopters, a dive team and four canine units scoured the trails, marshes, lakes and brush in search of the young boy.
As hours turned to days and the search for Leyton widened, the family clung to hope, but braced for the worst.
Sunday evening, it rained. On Monday, temperatures dropped below freezing. After three days, Leyton had not been spotted.
His family knew how important every minute was to find him.
“You still have a silver lining, but it was getting a little more distant,” Fisher said.
WATCH | Ontario child missing for 3 days found alive
Safe and sound
Against all odds, Leyton was found alive and well around 3 p.m. Wednesday by a team of four members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Emergency Response Team as they searched a hilly part of the forest beyond the main research area.
Const. Scott McNames, a 19-year-old team veteran, was marking a tree when he spotted the boy’s blue winter jacket.
“I was sticking a piece of duct tape on a branch and looked past the branch and noticed some blue, maybe 20 meters away,” McNames said UKTN Radio . As it happens.
“I mean blue, light blue, that didn’t belong to the woods.”
He called his partner, the const. Greg Verney, who scaled a set of boulders to reach the area where McNames was pointing. It was there that Verney discovered Leyton, lying down.
LISTEN: OPP officer describes moving moment he found missing toddler
As it happens6:39OPP officer describes moving moment he found missing toddler
“I didn’t see him move at first. So when I called I got a little darker tone to myself. I was like, ‘Hey, guys, we brought him here, ‘and I was not expecting the result that we have, ”said Verney.
“And then as I got closer, I said it a little louder. And I think my stronger appeal to my partners might have stirred Jude a bit. And he opened his eyes.
“At that point we were completely, completely shocked and surprised and the mood changed from gloomy to ‘OK, now we have work to do’.
‘I do not believe it’
The little boy was dizzy and dehydrated, but appeared to be in good condition. Officers gave the boy water, wrapped him in warm blankets and took him out of the forest where he reunited with his family, including his parents, Clayton and Katherine.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Fisher said. “The OPP came out of the woods on the trail with an ATV and I had to physically touch him, kind of stroke his hair.
Paramedics took Leyton to Kingston General Hospital, where he has been staying for several days under the supervision of healthcare workers.
Jude was brought to us by the dedication and relentless perseverance of the OPP ground, air and submarine search and rescue teams and the tireless efforts of volunteer searchers, firefighters and paramedics. community paramedics.
Katherine Leyton, Jude’s mother, posted on social media the day after her discovery, thanking the OPP and volunteers for their “tireless dedication and perseverance.”
“We can’t begin to express how it feels to have our amazing and resilient son Jude safe in our arms,” she wrote.
“Our entire extended family is beyond thrilled after what has been arguably the worst experience of our lives.
“Our kind Jude miraculously defied all odds and we are overwhelmed and deeply grateful for the thoughts, prayers and unwavering hope of all who were touched by his loss and recovery.”
Leyton also posted photos of the three-year-old which show him eating in a hospital bed and sleeping next to a teddy bear.
The boy’s astonishing survival defied the expectations of the family and the police.
Neither McNames nor Verney were able to explain how Leyton beat the obstacles, but both attributed the wool sweater Leyton wore to keep him warm during the three-day event.
For Fisher, he is delighted to find his grandson safe and sound.
“Especially after a year of pandemic, it’s a very happy story,” he said.
“We’re just really happy it’s over and we just want to go back to our normal lives and enjoy Jude’s company, like we always have.”