A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy who wandered off from his family home has “unbelievably” been found “alive and well” in a dense woodland three days after he disappeared.
Youngster Jude Leyton was finally located on Wednesday afternoon around a kilometer away from where he was last seen after a huge search operation was launched by locals and law enforcement.
Jude went missing at around 11am on Sunday after he meandered from the family’s fishing cabin on Folsom Lake in Ontario, Canada.
Concerns for his welfare continued to increase as the temperature dropped to freezing, despite him being “well dressed for the weather” according to the spokesperson for the OPP, Bill Dickson.
“He had a winter jacket on with a heavy wool sweater. He still had his boots on. So, he did well for the elements and so that’s one reason he was in such good shape, I believe.”
A search party consisting of OPP officers, a canine unit, the underwater search and recovery unity and members of Ontario search and rescue volunteer teams, trawled the 200-acre resort on Canoe Lake Road to find little Jude.
The tot was found sleeping near an area in the woodland known as “beaver pond” by an emergency response team who had expanded their search radius.
“Four of our ERT members, part of the search and rescue (team), they were on another tasking to check another area. While they’re on that tasking, they found Jude. It was a great finale to some very, very difficult days,” Constable Curtis Dick explained.
“There’s a body of water that’s attached to the property. So it was across that body of water. So a significant distance for sure.”
The teams battled through the tough terrain over nearly four days and three nights before Constable Scott McNames spotted the toddler through the shrubbery.
The 53-year-old was off-duty celebrating his birthday when reports of Jude’s disappearance came in, but he commendably abandoned the festivities to join the search team.
Constable McNames described the discovery as the: “Best day on the job in 25 years.”
The father-of-three scooped up the youngster after wrapping him in warm clothing and giving him some water, before reuniting him with his ecstatic parents.
Detailing the discovery, he explained he touchingly told the child, ““Hi Jude, we’re here to help you and we’re going to take you to your mom and dad.”
Jude was given water and taken to hospital as a precaution but is said to be “alive and well … in good condition but will be checked out by paramedics.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Bill Dickson added. “He seems to be fine.”
The three-year-old is expected to be interviewed regarding the incident in hospital.
Jude’s mother, poet Katherine Leyton, expressed her gratitude on Twitter the following afternoon.
She wrote: “We can’t begin to express how we feel to have our incredible, resilient son Jude back safe in our arms.
“Our entire extended family is beyond elated after what was undoubtedly the worst experience of our lives.
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“Jude was returned to us due to the unrelenting dedication and perseverance of the OPP’s search-and-rescue ground, air, and underwater teams and tireless effort of community volunteer searchers, firefighters and paramedics.”
An elated Constable Curtis Dick said: “This is absolutely the best-case scenario that we could have hoped for.
“Lots of smiles, very happy time. The teams, both the OPP and the volunteer search and rescue members, when you work that hard for that long, man, it’s a great feeling.”