The little boy who went missing yesterday in Tolaga Bay appears to have spent the night in a small ravine, using pine needles to lie down, police say.
Three-year-old Axle was found alive this morning after hundreds searched for him overnight.
Constable Richard Reeves said he was found in a steep, wooded area and appeared to have fallen from a bank into a small ravine, where he spent the night.
He said the youngster had shown no signs of hypothermia.
Reeves said Afternoons he was at home with the family when news broke that the three-year-old had been found.
“He was wearing a diaper and a t-shirt, a few little rubber boots and we had a pretty cold night here last night – so he did very well.”
He said Axle was really hungry when he got home; he had been checked by ambulance personnel and showed no signs of hypothermia.
“He’s obviously tucked away somewhere for the night, he had a few pine needles and stuff on him, but he’s obviously found somewhere warm enough to sleep because he’s pretty good and healthy … I would say that he’s gonna be a good little hunter if he has those kind of survival skills at that age. “
Reeves said it was a huge relief to find Axle alive and well, as there wouldn’t usually be a positive outcome with a child of that age and with the conditions overnight.
“He is only three years old, so he has very limited means of communication, but he was quite happy to see his mother and father and rather happy to receive a thread.”
Reeves said everyone was delighted to see the found toddler and “there’s a bit of a party going on here right now.”
Reeves said he went missing with a small dog around 1 p.m. yesterday in the back of the house.
“The house is a rural area just north of Tolaga and it is an old sawmill so there are machines, logs and forestry equipment everywhere, there is a big river next to the road which is a stone’s throw away. of the house and then once you get up behind the house is a thick and very steep and rugged bush. “
Reeves said Axle walked up the main track behind the house and then fell on the other side, which is quite steep, only to end up in a small ravine and he couldn’t get out of there.
Axle was located just before 11 a.m. with between 120 and 150 volunteers looking for him, along with two trained search and rescue teams.
Reeves said a local man found Axle along a forest road about 2 miles from his home.
‘I’ve never seen relief like this’
Damon Jeffrey is the owner of the dog, Bro, who had accompanied the boy yesterday afternoon from the family home near Tolaga Bay.
Jeffrey said Axle was found by a local man named Peter.
“There was just cheering and applause, you could feel the relief in the air,” Jeffrey said.
“It was an unreal moment, it really was.
“His mother’s and father’s legs almost fell under them. I’ve never seen relief like this.”
Axle was “smiling and happy,” he said.
Jeffrey said the boy had wandered down an old “fairly steep” logging track in the area, making it difficult to find. More than 100 search and rescue volunteers and 40 police officers participated in the search.
“I almost fell to my death just looking for her. As each minute passed, our anxiety grew. How does such a young kid survive overnight? It’s unreal.
Jeffrey said he called his dog Bro, who returned without the boy late yesterday.
“When I whistle it always comes back. Three hours later it came back.”
The boy may have tried to follow him but got lost, Jeffrey said.
There was not a lot of shelter on the trail.
“There’s nowhere I would say someone would choose to camp overnight,” he said.
Axle was originally reported to be four years old, but he’s only three, he said.
“In fact, he’s three years old. It’s quite unreal in itself, to have a three year old missing, but the community came together, we all came together, we didn’t stop and we found the best result in the end. “
The family, who had lived in Auckland and Gisborne, were new to the community and had only been in Tolaga Bay for about a month, Jeffrey thought.
Jeffrey said Bro helped guide Axle’s search to her happy ending.
“Without the direction my dog was coming from, we wouldn’t have known which direction to go. The dog gave a hint.
“He’s a great dog,” he said of the 18-month-old brother. “He has the coolest personality, he loves kids.”
Bro and Axle are great friends, and “they play all the time,” he said.
“My dog just followed Axle on his adventures.”
It was a happy reunion for the two this morning after Axle was found unharmed.
“Bro was very, very happy to see him and Axle was very happy to see him too.”
The two will now be close to home, he said.
“My dog never gets very far, and after last night I don’t think Axle will get very far.”
Jeffrey thanked everyone who helped research and spread the word.
“The country has shown real concern for this child and this has made me restore some faith in humanity.
“Honestly I had a little tear on my face [when he was found].
“I have a child of my own and I can’t even imagine what it was for them, and that’s why we weren’t going to stop until we found it.”