On Monday, three days after getting lost in a rugged Australian forest, a three-year-old boy in a sweatshirt and diaper was found sitting in a stream, picking up water and drinking.
Hundreds of people were looking for an autistic, non-verbal Anthony “AJ” Elfarak after disappearing from a family countryside land near the village of Putty in northern Sydney late Friday morning.
Police helicopter crew found him sitting in a shallow riverbed about 470 meters (1,540 feet) from his home late Monday morning, according to police police officer Tracy Chapman.
He was in good condition but was taken to the hospital for observation, paramedics said.
His father, Anthony Elfarak, said AJ was bitten by an ant, diaper rash and scratched.
“It’s a miracle,” the father told reporters after he and his wife, Kelly Elfarak, reunited with their son.
“He just clings to his mother. As soon as he hears his mother’s voice, he opens his eyes and stares at her and falls asleep,” he said.
AJ was found in a previously searched area. Police assume he spent all his time in the woods, Chapman said.
She said his ability to find drinking water was an important factor in his survival because of the risk of dehydration. Nighttime temperatures in the area have dropped to 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit).
According to SES Chief Inspector Simon Merrick, AJ was kneeling in a stream when a state emergency service officer approached him and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“He (AJ) said he turned to him with a big smile on his face. He will never forget,” said the policeman.
Paramedic Gerry Pyke, who examined AJ, described him as a “small survivor.”
“The condition of Little AJ was very noticeable,” Pike said. “He was very, very grateful. I could see it in his eyes.”
After reuniting with his parents, AJ slept in an ambulance and woke up hungry.
“He got caught in about three slices of pizza and banana, so he’s pretty good,” Pike said.