Forest Rangers found a 10-year-old Sunday morning in good health after he went missing overnight in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.
Forest Ranger James Waters said he found the boy (who forest rangers wouldn’t identify because of his age) about a mile off the Short Swing Trail.
Waters had been on the way to meet up with another forest ranger near Gooseneck Pond when he took a break atop a boulder field. While taking a break, Waters yelled out, hoping the boy would hear him, which is standard during search-and-rescue missions.
“I was yelling and sitting there still and … I heard what I thought was a crow answering me,” Waters said. “It was just a slight, sharp noise. I did that three or four times, and I said to myself, “Boy that’s crazy that that bird just keeps answering me.’”
Waters then walked in the direction of the noise and soon saw the 10-year-old boy on the edge of a swamp. “I could barely hear him,” Waters said. “(His voice) was just so soft.”
Waters said the boy was in good shape when he was found at 8:50 a.m. He was dressed in jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers but didn’t have any food or water on him. The temperatures had been in the 60s that night, so there was little chance of hypothermia. He slept on the forest floor with his arms inside his shirt to protect him from bugs.
The boy had become lost while hiking with his family the previous evening. During the trip, he apparently wandered off onto an unmaintained trail and got lost. The family of 10 had been split into two groups along the trail, and the boy had been traveling between them when he went off trail, forest rangers said.
Captain John Streiff said state police notified the state Department of Environmental Conservation dispatch office in Ray Brook about the missing boy at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday, and forest rangers began searching soon afterward.
Twenty-three Forest Rangers, the State Police’s Special Operations Response Team, K-9 units, a State Police helicopter, and Essex County Sheriff’s deputies participated in the search.
The search team caught a break at about 4 a.m. when it found the boy’s water bottle in the vicinity of the unmaintained trail. After that, crews began focusing in that area. The boy was located within a half-mile of the location of the water bottle.
Streiff said it was important that the boy was found so quickly because stormy weather came through the area hours after the search. “We not only were concerned about having a 10-year-old boy in the woods, but we were concerned about these fronts were coming in Sunday night: these heavy rains and winds and thunderstorms,” he said. “Regardless, we did not want to leave him out in the night. We didn’t want to leave a 10-year-old boy in the storms that night.”
Photo and map courtesy of DEC: The 10-year-old boy is reunited with his family. The map is of the search area.