After two freezing nights in dense Victorian bush, William Callaghan was found looking “angelic” as he stood in the wilderness.
Experienced bushman and search volunteer Ben Gibbs discovered the non-verbal autistic teenager about lunchtime on June 10, nearly 48 hours after William became separated from family on the Mount Disappointment summit.
“I am really overwhelmed here. He is well as could be under the circumstances, he is quite calm considering,” William’s mum Penny Callaghan said.
“He has used [a program] … to tell us that he is confused and is scared. He keeps pressing the body, saying his body feels weird.
“I can’t imagine what he’s been feeling and going through. I am just so relieved.
“His first request was McDonald’s. I think he wanted hot salty food.”
Gibbs, who grew up in the area, found William about 20 minutes off the main track, a little deeper in the bush than previous searches had covered.
“He was just about 15 metres from me, just standing there, he was really angelic just standing,” Gibbs said.
“He looked in reasonable health, he wasn’t shivering too bad, he didn’t have socks on so I put some socks on him and a jacket. I gave him some chocolate.”
Gibbs felt like he was on track to finding William before discovering the boy.
“This is kind of our family mountain. I’ve been going here since I was a boy, so I know it well,” he said.
William was taken to the search staging area about 1pm and by 2pm left in an ambulance with his mum Penny and stepfather Nathan Ezard for health checks.
A cheer went out across the search camp as the vehicle left.
Hundreds of people were searching for William, as temperatures in the area plummeted.
His favourite tune, Thomas the Tank Engine, was blasted over sound systems to try to draw him out and food was left out for him to find.
A wave of relief went through the camp when news broke of the boy’s discovery.
Smiles and tears spread over the faces of his family, friends and those who searched high and low for him.
Callaghan spoke to the media just hours earlier, saying she hoped her son would be found today.
“I am not the praying type, but I’m praying now, because I want him home,” she said.