A 3-year-old boy lost in rugged Australian woodland for three days was found on Monday sitting in a stream and cupping his hands to drink the water.
Hundreds of people had been searching for Anthony “AJ” Elfalak, who has autism and is non-verbal.
He went missing on Friday morning from his family’s remote rural property near the village of Putty, north of Sydney, wearing only a sweatshirt and a nappy.
A police helicopter crew spotted him sitting in shallow water in a creek bed, about half a kilometre from his home, police superintendent Tracy Chapman said.
He was in good condition but was taken to a hospital for observation, ambulance officers said.
His father, Anthony Elfalak, said AJ had been bitten by ants, had nappy rash and had suffered abrasions.
“It’s a miracle,” Mr Elfalak told reporters after he and his wife, Kelly, were reunited with their son.
“He’s just clinging to Mum. As soon as he heard his mum, he opened his eyes and looked at her and fell asleep,” he said.
AJ was found in an area that had been searched before. Police are assuming he spent the entire time in the woods, Ms Chapman said.
His ability to find drinking water was crucial to his survival, she said. Overnight temperatures in the area dipped as low as 6°C.
AJ was kneeling in the creek when a State Emergency Service officer reached him and placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder, SES chief inspector Simon Merrick said.
The officer “stated that he [AJ] turned towards him with a massive smile on his face that he will not forget,” he said.
The paramedic who examined the boy, Gerry Pyke, described him as a “little survivor”.
“Little AJ’s condition was quite remarkable,” Mr Pyke said. “He was very, very thankful. I could see that in his eyes.”
AJ slept in an ambulance after he was reunited with his parents, then woke up hungry.
“He got stuck into about three slices of pizza and a banana, so he’s pretty good,” Mr Pyke said.