A 3-year-old boy with autism has been safely reunited with his family in Florida after deputies, with the help of police dogs, located him hours after he went missing.
The boy, named Aedric, was found by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday, Sept. 15.
In a news conference the following day, Sheriff Bob Johnson said the young boy with special needs got lost in Pace, Florida, but was found by officers and bloodhounds “no worse for the wear” after a two-and-a-half-hour search.
“Once the dogs hit the ground, it was 28 minutes that we had the child,” Sheriff Johnson said. “All they do is track people and they are very, very good at it.”
The 3-year-old was under the care of his grandmother on Sunday and while she was in the bathroom, he unlocked a deadbolt on the house’s front door and wandered out alone, his mother, Audra Hughes, told the Miami Herald.
Aedric then got lost after wandering into the woods behind a neighbor’s home, she told the outlet.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement on Facebook that officers began their search at around 11 a.m. on Sunday, and released their bloodhounds after an unsuccessful two-hour search.
The boy was found by bloodhounds around 200 yards away from his home in an “extremely wooded and muddy area,” the office said. “The bloodhounds located the child huddled tightly under a heavy brush area.”
Officers used a machete to get to the young boy who was surrounded by briars and mud, reported Fox 29. The sheriff’s office added that Aedric received medical attention immediately.
Despite a few bug bites and scratches, the 3-year-old was in good health and was returned safely to his home.
“I’m very grateful to the team. Words can’t even express,” the boy’s mother said at the news conference. “The most terrifying words a mother can get on the phone is ‘your child is missing, get home right now.’”
The sheriff’s office shared several photos from the search, with one showing the 3-year-old covered in mud, clinging onto a deputy who works on the K-9 team after the rescue.
“The photo of Deputy Lenzo carrying the 3-year-old out of the woods speaks volumes as to the seriousness of the incident,” the sheriff’s office said.
Since the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office began using bloodhounds to assist them in their searches a year ago, the team have successfully located nine individuals, including senior citizens, criminals on the run, and missing children, it added.
District One Commissioner Sam Parker congratulated the team for their hard work.
“Great job Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office!” Parker wrote on Facebook. “Their bloodhounds found a missing 3-year-old autistic boy who was lost in the woods today. Thank you to everyone else that came out to help with this effort.”