Missing Boy Scout Found Alive After 4 Days In North Carolina Wildness, Escorted Out By Rangers

Tuesday, March 20th 2007, 8:28 am
By: News On 6

McGRADY, N.C. (AP) _ Park rangers escorted a weak and dehydrated 12-year-old Boy Scout out of the rugged North Carolina mountains on Tuesday, four days after he wandered away from his troop's camp site.

Michael Auberry was brought the final distance by SUV to a ranger station, where a medical team and his parents were meeting him.

``We have our missing Boy Scout,'' said a jubilant National Park Service spokeswoman Tina White.

White said she didn't have exact details about where or how Michael was found, but officials first received word shortly before 11 a.m. that he was spotted within a mile and a half of the camp site.

``Search and rescuers who located him have their hands on him. He is in the care of search and rescue workers,'' White said. ``Probably the most important thing we heard on the radio is A-1, which means he is in good condition.''

The radio communication set off a celebration among leaders of several Scout troops waiting for news about the boy. ``A lot of tears, a lot of hugs,'' White said, and members of Michael's church joined hands to pray at the staging area.

``This shows that when everybody works together, good things happen,'' said associate minister Susan Norman Vickers of Christ United Methodist Church. ``We just believed that he was going to be found.''

Earlier, the boy's father talked about his confidence in the rescue teams searching for his son in the damp, cool wilderness.

``What we got here is our son, who's lost, lost somewhere out there, and we don't know where he is,'' Kent Auberry said. ``We've got great professionals looking for him. We're just waiting for the news.''

Dog teams, about 70 people and a plane with heat-sensing equipment had been searching the rugged area around the camp site. Overnight temperatures were in the upper 30s to low 40s on Tuesday, milder than on Sunday night, when temperatures dropped into the 20s.

Michael vanished after lunch with his fellow Scouts and troop leaders on Saturday. His father said the adults and the other boys on the trip told him Michael had slept late but nothing appeared to have been wrong.

``He was in good spirits,'' Auberry said. ``He ate lunch, chatting with the boys. He was walking around with I think some Pringles and a mess kit. The next moment, sounds like a blink of the eye, he was gone.''

``They do a great job in the Scouts of educating the kids of what to beware of and tips. I'm hopeful that Michael has taken those to heart,'' he said.

Searchers found Michael's mess kit late Saturday within a mile of the camp site, and White said they had also found a candy wrapper and a potato chip bag.

While the weather has been chilly, White said Michael was wearing two jackets, one of them fleece. ``We've had people who have been out a week or longer and survived,'' she said.

Michael had stayed behind with an adult leader Saturday morning while the rest of the troop went for a hike ``because apparently he wanted to sleep in,'' said David Bauer, a ranger with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Michael was there when the troop returned for lunch, but the group of about 10 Scouts and their three adult leaders soon noticed he was missing, Bauer said.

Authorities said the boy probably wandered into the woods to explore.

``We're hopeful he was able to find shelter. There are a number of rock crevasses, and he could have covered himself up with leaves,'' said Mike Lambert, a ranger with North Carolina State Parks.

One of Michael's favorite books when he was younger was about a boy whose plane crashes in the wilderness, and how that boy survives on his own, his father said.

``I think he's got some of that book in his mind,'' Auberry said. ``In my fantasy, when they find him, he'll be making beef jerky somewhere or something like that. He's got a lot of resources to draw from.''