Missing Toddler Rescued After Searchers Hear Heartbreaking Cries for Mom

Casey Hathaway
Facebook/Locate The Missing

A 3-year-old boy who was missing for two days was found alive and safe not far from where he had vanished. Authorities discovered Casey Hathaway late on Thursday night after the little boy from North Carolina went missing from his great-grandmother's yard. Police are sharing the details of this miraculous rescue and his parents are thanking the hundreds of people who worked to help bring their toddler back home.

  • The boy went missing on Tuesday after he failed to return to his great-grandmother's house after playing outside with two other kids.

    According to NBC News, Casey had been outside at his great-grandmother's home Tuesday afternoon playing with two other kids who he is reportedly related to when he went missing. ABC 11 reported that Casey's great-grandmother looked for her grandson for 45 minutes before deciding that she needed more help so she called the Craven County sheriff's office and reported that her grandson couldn't be found. NBC News reported that police responded to the call within minutes but at no time in their investigation did they see signs of abduction.

    "He was walking in the woods back there and we can't find him," his great-grandmother told the 911 dispatcher, according to CNN. "The other ones come through the house but left him there and he walked off somewhere and we can't find him." 

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  • After police couldn't immediately find the boy, the search expanded and Casey's story began to go viral.

    As the news of Casey's disappearance spread, it led to a large-scale search as hundreds of professional searchers and volunteers combed the area to find the lost little boy, according to an additional NBC News report. The search became so big that officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the state highway police, and the US Marine Corp got involved too. 

    "We are treating this as a missing child investigation and search," Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes told reporters Wednesday. “Our number one priority is to find Casey.” 

    Two of the factors that made it so difficult for rescue workers to find the boy were the harsh temperatures and difficult terrain that they had to search through. Officials said the terrain was treacherous, with flooded areas and sinkholes. Hughes told reporters from NBC News on Thursday that "even the trained searchers are having trouble navigating safely."

    Donna Harris, a volunteer searcher and mother of three, told ABC 11 that when she had gone out to search for the boy, it seemed impossible to imagine a 3-year-old in those conditions by himself. "We went through the woods -- through the thicket and the briars," she said. "We did it for three-and-a-half, four hours and it was bad. It was really bad out there. As it got darker, it was scary out there. I just can't imagine a 3-year-old being out there." 

    On Wednesday night, temperatures were below freezing for six hours in the Craven County area, the report noted. And Hughes added that at the time of his disappearance, the toddler had not been dressed for inclement weather. 

  • Finally a break-through in the case was made when rescue workers heard Casey in the woods calling for his mother.

    Thursday night they received a tip that he was in the brush about a quarter-mile away from where he went missing. But it was only when Capt. Shane Grier of Chocowinity EMS "heard Casey asking for his mother" in the woods that the boy was finally found.

    The sheriff said that they followed Casey's calls 40 to 50 yards into the woods and through water until they spotted him around 9:30 p.m. Casey was reportedly stuck, tangled in vines and thorns.

    "He was cold, but he was verbal in command to us," Grier told reporters at a news conference on Thursday night. "The more we warmed him up, the more active he became. I think, for the conditions, I think he fared very well. We're very fortunate for where we are," he added. 

    Casey's parents, Brittany and Chris Hathaway, hugged Grier and thanked him for making the incredible rescue. Then they gave reporters an update on their brave little guy, telling them that now that he's home it's business as usual.

    "He is good, he's up and talking -- he's already asked to watch Netflix, so he's good. He is good," said his mom, Brittany. The parents also thanked the hundreds of volunteers who had looked for her son over the past few days, as did Hughes, who was pleased with the way the search had turned out. 

    "It’s a great evening, folks. We've brought Casey to his family, just like we said we were going to do,” Hughes said. "We did not give up."

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