ERNUL, NC — Whether it’s the fancy of a child’s imagination or something that actually happened, the story of a North Carolina toddler who was lost in the woods for several days in frigid temperatures and heavy rain has a twist that’s perfect for a children’s story: The 3-year-old told his rescuers that he had been taken care of by a bear.
Casey Lynn Hathaway was found entangled in briars, but alive, on Thursday night after a massive search by the FBi, Marines based at Camp Lejeune in eastern North Carolina, state and county law enforcement agencies, and more than 600 volunteers.
He was found after authorities received a tip of a crying child. He was crying for his mother when the search party found him, according to reports.
Casey had disappeared from his grandmother’s backyard in Ernul, North Carolina, on the afternoon of Jan. 21.
Casey’s aunt, Breanna Hathaway, said in a now-deleted Facebook post that her nephew said he “hung out with a bear.”
“God sent him a friend to keep him safe,” Hathaway reportedly wrote, according to a Fox News report. “God is good. Miracles do happen.”
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes backed up the bear story, telling television station WCTI that while Casey didn’t say exactly how he was able to survive, “he did say he had a friend in the woods that was a bear that was with him.”
It was Casey’s cry in the woods that summoned rescuers, but by the time the boy had been pulled to safety, “I don’t think I was around anybody that wasn’t crying,” Chocowinity EMS Captain Shane Grier told television station WITN.
Grier said the boy was trapped in a briar thicket, where he endured freezing temperatures, heavy rain and gusting winds. He suffered only minor scrapes and cuts.
“You could tell he was very cold so we immediately started warming him up once we got him to the vehicle. The more we warmed him up, it seemed the better he got,” said Grier, who attributes Hathaway’s safe rescue to the hundreds of people who scoured the woods looking for him.
“The support we had from all these agencies, the community, everybody. It’s overwhelming,”
Grier said, adding that it’s “hard to say” how Casey was able to live through the ordeal relatively unscathed.
But told the television station, “i know there was a lot of people praying for him.”
Photo via Shutterstock
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