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A Kentucky toddler was found alive in “remarkably good condition” clinging to a cliffside three days after his family first reported him missing.
22-month-old Kenneth Howard disappeared from his Magoffin County home Sunday night. His family believes he may have gone out a back door at the home.
He was found just before 2 p.m. Wednesday near a strip mine in Floyd County, about a mile from his home, according to the Kentucky State Police. The young boy had traveled through rugged terrain and was found along a 50-foot incline along a cliff by rescuers in the emotional recovery.
“As we were coming down, we were fortunate that he had heard us and screamed out,” Prestonsburg Fire Chief Michael Brown said, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “One of our guys heard him scream and at that point we all got quiet and a couple of guys started calling his name. Sporadically he was calling out, we found the location of the sound and went back and he was just sitting there.”
One official called Howard a “true Kentucky mountain boy” after describing the difficult terrain the boy must have traveled in the days since he disappeared.
“I would not, in fact I can’t, even as a young man I don’t think I’d even attempt it,” the official said according to local station WYMT.
Brown said rescuers were able to give the dehydrated toddler water and Gatorade before he was taken via helicopter to an area hospital for evaluation, although he only appeared to have suffered only minor scrapes after the ordeal.
“It was amazing,” Brown told the paper. “Our crew, we were talking and these instances usually, they come out grim. But to come with him being alive and well, it’s what gives you the courage to go on and continue.”
According to Ritt Mortimer, the acting public information officer for Magoffin County Rescue Squad, Kenneth Howard was in “remarkably good condition” when he was found.
The boy’s father, Elden Howard, said he was in disbelief when he heard the news and insisted on seeing a picture to confirm rescuers had found his son.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me in my life,” he told WSAZ.
Elden Howard said as the days stretched on since his son was last seen alive he had begun to fear the worst.
“It was getting harder every day,” he told the station. “I was starting to think somebody had picked him up.”
Nearly 300 people had been part of the massive search initiative — which included helicopters, drones, K-9 units and off-road vehicles — to try to bring the toddler home.
Investigators will now try to piece together how the boy got to the cliffside, but acknowledge his limited verbal skills could make that a challenge.
“It was an amazing effort by many different agencies and crews ... it just so happens we were in the right place at the right time,” Brown said.
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