A 3-year-old, Casey Lynn Hathaway, was found on January 24th after claiming he had hung out with a bear for two days, according to CNN. The three-year-old, who is just over 2 feet tall, disappeared from his grandmother’s house in Craven County near New Bern. According to ABC 11, the boy disappeared on January 22nd. He was playing outside with two other boys and according to Fox News, the others went inside but he did not. The authorities first learned of Casey’s disappearance 45 minutes later when his family called the police. In the call to the police, Casey’s great-grandmother states that Casey usually didn’t go missing and that he’d been in the woods for at least 45 minutes at the time of the call. Many organizations, including the US government, joined in the search, including the FBI, the Craven County Sheriff’s Office, the Chocowinity EMS, NCIS, and the Marine Corps.
At first, the searchers were worried that the temperatures, which were dipping near freezing, would work against them and Casey. ABC 11 reports that Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes was worried that the boy was not dressed for the weather. The first night dropped to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and on the second night, Craven County received 2 inches of rain, CNN writes. Major David McFadyen of the Craven County Sheriff’s Office says that there are bears in the woods of the county, but there’s no evidence to prove one of them stayed the nights with the boy. McFayden says that all that matters was that something was there to comfort him during the three days. He says, “We are very pleased he had that type of comfort. There were very brutal conditions out there.” Many volunteers turned out for the search to find Casey, but they were reluctantly turned away; the conditions were so bad. Hendrix Valenzuela, a Multi-Hazard Field Planner with the DPS, reports, by Thursday late evening, our hopes to find him in a well-being state was diminishing. According to historical search and rescue data, our window of opportunity was closing. And eventually with any operations the situation shifts from search and rescue to recovery. (Meaning they then would search for a body, not a live person) He also says that the searchers had never mentioned the “possible negative outcome” to one another but knew deep inside that it was probable that Casey wouldn’t survive another night.
Casey was found on January 24th in good condition, the FBI confirms. The searchers had received numerous tips and followed them all, Hughes reported. "It was folks giving us tips and leads," Hughes said. "We hit every one of them immediately and it paid off." A search team followed a tip from a woman walking her dog, reporting that she’d heard a child calling out in the woods, and found Casey Lynn Hathaway in “a tangle of vines and thorns.” Reportedly, Shane Grier, the captain of the Chocowinity EMS, found him along with Valenzuela. “We responded to a tip and found him by voice," Grier said. "Disentangled him from some briars and brought him out." Grier said as soon as he got to the location, he heard Casey calling for his mom. "He was cold. He was verbal," Grier said. "Considering the conditions, I think he's doing very well." Sheriff Hughes believes that Casey was not in the same area the entire time. "I think he moved around," Hughes said.
The FBI says that he is in good health and is talking and has been reunited with his family. “We were at the right time and right place, and glad we could follow that lead to reunite Casey with his family,” said Valenzuela. “The entire search over three days was a team effort, all the agencies did a heck of a job.” Casey’s mother, Brittany Hathaway, says that Casey is, “He’s good, he’s good, he’s up and talking, he’s already asking to watch Netflix” and “eating Cheetos, nuggets, and watching ‘PAW Patrol.’” He’s currently being treated at Carolina East Medical Center, where he is being evaluated and will undergo a forensic psychological exam this week, CNN reports. On January 25th, the boy’s aunt posted an update on the Casey on social media. “Casey is healthy, smiling and talking,” Breanna Hathaway wrote. “He said he hung out with a bear for two days God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen.” In any case, thanks to the professional searchers and volunteers alike who helped find Casey and get him back to his family safe! Oh, and the bear. You can’t forget the bear.
Story by Caroline Barton
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