Lost Arizona 4-year-old returned home after 24 hours in the desert

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM News


The parents of a curious four-year-old boy recently found themselves facing a nightmarish situation when their son disappeared for over 24 hours into a southern Arizona desert.

The parents noticed their son, along with the family dog, disappeared from the family home in Sells a little after 10:00 am on Friday, Dec. 17. As members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the family reported the disappearance to tribal police by 11:45 that morning.

Tribal police launched a multi-agency search and rescue plan that also utilized U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue as well as FBI agents. The search involved both land and air units.

The FBI wrote in their statement of the incident released on Thursday that “Time was of the essence as the boy could quickly succumb to hypothermia based on the time of year and weather conditions.”

The Sonoran Desert has additional dangers for a young child. The FBI said, “There was also an added danger of the boy falling victim to wildlife as the Sonoran Desert is known for javelina, coyotes, and mountain lions.”

Despite the effort, authorities still had not located the boy within 24 hours. The family dog returned home alone around 4 on Saturday morning.

Just after noon on Dec. 18, border patrol agents spotted the boy from a helicopter just over 5 miles away from his home. The “hope restored” moment showed the child appeared to be unharmed as he waved at the helicopter.

A nearby search party on land quickly made their way to the four-year-old, where they provided basic first aid and blankets. He was later taken for a medical evaluation. When it was decided the boy was healthy, he was then returned to his family.

The official release also described the difficult adventure the boy had been on: “During the search, it was discovered the boy had walked in large circles and was found approximately 5.5 miles from his home and walked an estimated 12 to 15 miles throughout the 24-hour period.”

They noted that the dog “appeared to be with him for most of the time.”

U.S. Border Patrol Chief John R. Modlin tweeted photos from the rescue:

Over thirty different officers participated in the search and rescue efforts.