Published June 22, 2005
BOUNTIFUL, Utah – A shy Brennan Hawkins (search) had little to say Wednesday afternoon following his ordeal in the Utah wilderness, but it was all positive — when asked how he was doing, he said, "good."
His family wasn't so understated. In a news conference outside their home in Bountiful, Utah, they beamed over the 11-year-old's survival and spoke of how they felt like a whole family again now that Brennan was back.
They also struggled to explain how Brennan might have survived being lost for four days in the Uinta Mountains (search).
"We talked about the miracle factor, if that's what you want to call it," said Toby Hawkins, Brennan's father. "We certainly thought there was some kind of divine intervention."
However, a more earthly explanation also presented itself. As the conference wore on, an overwhelmed Brennan crouched beneath the microphones and pulled his sweatshirt over his knees, going into what his parents and friends have called "Midget Mode" — a way he possibly conserved heat during the cold nights in the mountains.
As for Brennan's silence in front of the media, his parents said they didn't expect him to talk much about his experience at first.
"It's going to take a while to get everything out," Toby said. "This is how he approaches all situations."
They said Brennan does not remember much, and they don't plan push him to talk about his four days in the woods.
In an earlier session with the media Wednesday, Brennan's parents thanked reporters for keeping audience attention on the story and said they were still in awe that their son, Brennan, was found safe and sound.
"We want to celebrate this ... what a remarkable finish and conclusion to this whole experience," Toby said.
"It's gonna take some time to process this event in our heads," said Jody.
Brennan was released from a hospital early Wednesday after being treated for dehydration. His overall physical condition was good, except for a few bumps and bruises.
He was found by a 43-year-old house painter on an ATV who was out looking on his own, miles outside of the area where other searchers had been looking.
The boy's parents said he told them he saw searchers on the path he was on several times and each time he hid from them because he feared they might kidnap him.
"His biggest fear, the told me, was that someone would steal him," Jody Hawkins said.
"He gets very focused on something," she said of the two thoughts that went through his head: stay on the trail if you get lost and "don't talk to strangers."
His father, Toby, said they never discussed how that should be changed if you get lost.
"This may have come to a faster conclusion had we discussed that," he said.
"Brennan continues to amaze us," he said. "You know, his ability to deal with this initially, I made the comment that I thought that he was the most ill-prepared out of our five children to deal with it, and now I think he was maybe the best prepared."
Brennan left Primary Children's Medical Center (search) in Salt Lake City not long after midnight, said Bonnie Midget, a hospital spokeswoman. Doctors had said they wanted to keep him at least overnight for tests, said Dr. Ed Clark, the hospital's medical director.
The boy apparently eluded thousands of searchers by defying conventional wisdom: He went up instead of down.
Sheriff Dave Edmunds had said Brennan would have been more likely to head down a river valley from a 530-acre Boy Scout in the mountains.
"Typically children walk downhill, along the least path of resistance," he said. That possibility raised particular fears because the East Fork of the Bear River (search), which is normally ankle-deep, was swollen by heavy mountain snow melt.
However, Brennan had hiked some 600 feet higher and more than five miles into the mountains to the spot where searcher Forrest Nunley found him before noon Tuesday.
"I turned a corner and there was a kid standing in the middle of the trail. He was all muddy and wet," from walking over wet ground, said Nunley, who dialed 911 on his cell phone and said he was lucky to find a signal.
The boy had seen some searchers on horseback but avoided them because he was scared, Nunley said. "He was a little delirious. I sat him down and gave him a little food."
After downing bottles of water and eating all the granola bars carried by a group of volunteer searchers, the boy asked to play a video game on one rescuer's cell phone, the sheriff said.
The youngster from the Salt Lake City suburb of Bountiful was found on a 9,400-foot pass above Lily Lake, a summer-only campground in the Uinta range. He was quickly reunited with his parents and their four other children.
The boy and his family rode to the hospital together in an ambulance. "He laughed on the way here, just like he always has," his mother said. With a towel around his neck, Brennan waved to reporters as he was unloaded from the ambulance.
In Bountiful, an impromptu celebration was held Tuesday on the Hawkins' front lawn.
Neighbors and schoolchildren tied celebratory yellow ribbons to every part of the Hawkins' yard, the family's boat, and trees surrounding the home. Others honked car horns or held up signs heralding Brennan's safe return.
The boy carried no food or water when he vanished Friday, and his family had said he did not have a good sense of direction. But the nights were mild, with temperatures falling only into the 50s.
Officials said Brennan disappeared somewhere along a dirt road between the Scout camp's artificial climbing wall and the "chow hall," where he was to meet a friend.
The enormous search had included thousands of volunteers, platoons of all-terrain vehicles, horses and helicopters, including some equipped with infrared devices.
FOX News' Jared Goldman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.