Menu

ARCHIVE

12-Year-Old Boy Scout Found in North Carolina Mountains After 3 Nights Alive and Well

When 12-year-old Boy Scout Michael Auberry was found Tuesday, one of the first things he asked for was a helicopter ride out of the North Carolina woods in which he was lost for three-and-a-half days.

A two-year-old dog named Gandalf from South Carolina led search-and-rescue officials to Michael's location, which was about a half-mile northeast of the campsite where he was last seen. Michael was weak and dehydrated but very much alive.

"He was a little disoriented, but he was great," said Misha Marshall, the South Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association volunteer whose dog found Michael on a wooded ridge in the rugged North Carolina mountains.

Michael was across the stream from the trail when Gandalf caught his scent, she said. He wasn't calling for help, but he wasn't crying either, and he appeared to be in good physical condition, she said.

"He just said, 'I'm hungry,"' Marshall said. And he wanted some water.

Michael's dad, speaking at a press conference, said his son is tired and dehydrated, but otherwise okay.

"He heard people yelling for him and he tried to yell back. The creek was very loud in the woods, and you really can't hear from the other side," said Kent Auberry.

Auberry said Michael still hasn't been able to tell them the whole story of what happened to him.

"He's not aware of how many days he was out there," Auberry added.

Joe Ware, assistant fire chief in McGrady, said the boy told the rescue team that picked him and Marshall up on a nearby road that he had been drinking some water out of the streams in the area.

"He was calm," though a bit disoriented as he talked to the rescuers, Ware said. "He wanted peanut butter crackers and water."

Ware said he checked Michael for injuries, then he and the other rescuers carried the boy into a ranger station, where a medical team and his parents met him. He was later taken by ambulance to a hospital.

"I'm very pleased to finally be standing before you with a big smile on my face," Tina White, a spokeswoman for the Blue Ridge Parkway National Park Service, told reporters around noon Tuesday.

Michael was transported off the trail in the care of search and rescue workers and was transported in a vehicle to meet his parents, she said.

White said Michael is "weak but in good condition."

"We have our Boy Scout home with his family," she added, saying the parents were "elated" over the news. "I'm sure this is just a moment they'll never forget."

Officials had received word via radio communications from searchers that Michael had been found, which set off a celebration among leaders of several Scout troops waiting for news about the boy.

"This is such a wonderful ending to this event we've been through the past few days," White said. "It's been very frustrating … you want so badly every day and every night … to find this young man. A part of you wants to be the one who finds this young man."

More searchers than ever before — most professional search and rescue teams — had joined the effort Tuesday to find Michael, who wandered away from his Boy Scout campsite Saturday.

White had repeatedly said officials never considered their effort other than a search and rescue operation and never had any indications of foul play.

Michael's father, Kent, told reporters Tuesday that he had confidence in the officials running the search effort, and that he has no hard feelings toward the Boy Scouts.

"There's no one to blame," Kent Auberry said Tuesday morning, adding that Boy Scout representatives have "been up there day and night searching for him. I know he got the highest level of supervision" on the trip.

Auberry said that before he left for the camping trip, Michael was a little worried that some of his better Boy Scout friends weren't going on the camping trip with him. He wanted $5 from his dad if he didn't have a good time. The father said he'll give him that $5 when he comes home, and the two of them will do something "fun" together.

"We are on a roller coaster, we are up and down and up and down. We have good moments, we have bad moments," Auberry said of how he and his wife are faring emotionally.

"I'm afraid of a lot of things. I'm not afraid that he's wandering around now. I think he's hunkered down" and waiting to be rescued, he added with a quiver in his voice.

Officials had been worried about cold weather at night. Overnight temperatures were in the upper 30s to low 40s, milder than on Sunday night, when temperatures dropped into the 20s. There was a chance of rain Tuesday and Wednesday. Park rangers had worked with the boy's family to learn about Michael's wilderness skills and how he might react to the situation.

Michael was wearing two jackets, one of them fleece.

Officials Tuesday night separated the search area into 35 different segments. Crews and dogs focused Tuesday on those different areas, and shifted away from the roads and trails that had already been heavily searched to no avail.

"We feel that these 35 segments give us the highest probability of success in finding Michael," White said. "We feel that our best line of action at this point is to put as many people on the ground, heavily, heavily hitting these 35 areas."

"What we've got here is our son who is lost, lost somewhere out there and we don't know where he is and we've got great professionals out there looking for him and we're just waiting for the news," the boy's father, Kent Auberry, told reporters during the Tuesday press conference.

"We've got a lot of support, we've got a lot of people praying for us, we have friends and family."

Michael's parents said he had only potato chips to eat and no water and sometimes takes Ritalin to control attention-deficit disorder. Searchers had found a candy wrapper and a potato chip bag.

White said Tuesday that Michael only takes Ritalin to help himself focus at school, and that he's not always medicated. He's also gone on many camping trips without his medication, his father said.

"I think it's very important for the family to realize this is not a situation where Michael is a totally different child when he's not on his medication — it's not a Jekyll-and-Hyde type thing," White said. "It's not a concern, with the exception of the fact his parents would like him to have 100 percent behind him when he's going out there."

A missing persons alert notifying area law enforcement had also been issued as a precaution in case the boy had left the area being searched.

The boy had stayed behind with an adult leader Saturday morning while the rest of the troop went for a hike "because apparently he wanted to sleep in," said David Bauer, a ranger with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Michael was there when the troop returned for lunch, but the group of about 10 Scouts and their three adult leaders soon noticed he was missing, Bauer said.

Authorities said the boy probably wandered into the woods to explore.

FOXNews.com's Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.