The 3-year-old Craven County boy who has been missing for two days was found alive Thursday night.
Authorities said that Casey Lynn Hathaway was found by professional search and rescue crews on Aurora Road near Toler Road in Craven County.
Shane Grier, who located Casey, said authorities were responding to a tip and heard the boy calling for his mother when they arrived at the scene. Grier found the boy about 50 yards into the woods, tangled in some briars.
“He was cold but he was verbal in command to us. The more we warmed him up, the more active he became,” Grier said. “For the conditions, I think he fared pretty well.”
Sheriff Chip Hughes said he believes Casey had moved around before ending up in the location where he was found.
“We brought Casey to his family, just like we said we were going to do,” he said. “I could not be happier by the way this turned out.”
Authorities said the boy was talking and in good health, but was taken to Carolina East Medical Center for evaluation.
Casey’s parents took the opportunity late Thursday night to hug the first responders who located their son and thank those that helped during the search.
“We’re very thankful that you took the time out to come search for Casey and prayed for him,” Casey’s mother said. “He’s good. He’s up and talking. He’s already asked to watch Netflix, he’s good.”
Earlier Thursday searchers were slogging through heavy rain and rough, mucky terrain as they searched for the boy.
The conditions forced authorities to cut back on the number of people looking for Casey. Community volunteers were asked to stand down, and only professionals were allowed in the thick woods.
“We don’t want to make an incident into another incident,” said Joe Monette, of the North Carolina Forest Service. “It is an array of ditches, water – you name it, it is here.”
Casey had been last seen at around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday in Ernul. His great-grandmother was watching him and two other young children at a Toler Road home when he went missing.
“Was walking in the woods back there, and we can’t find him,” the great-grandmother told a 911 dispatcher. “He’s walked off somewhere, and we can’t find him.”
Hughes said Casey wasn’t adequately dressed for temperatures in the mid-30s, and authorities were concerned about sinkholes and deep, water-filled ditches in the area.
Searchers had covered about 220 acres by Thursday afternoon, Hughes said. Search and rescue teams from various law enforcement agencies across eastern North Carolina were involved, and K-9 officers were combing the woods, dive teams were checking every body of water and drones were scanning the area from above, he said.
“We are still functioning and working as diligently as we can,” Monette said. “We worked all through last night and every day right on. We have not stopped at all.”
Close to 600 volunteers searched for Casey on Wednesday, but only about 150 non-professionals signed up to help Thursday. They then spent the day gathered at a church waiting for the call.
“We had to turn some volunteers away,” Hughes said,