The discovery of Anthony “AJ” Elfalak has gone global after footage of the moment the missing boy was spotted made it to the UK and US.
The discovery of three-year-old Anthony “AJ” Elfalak has gone global after footage of the moment the missing boy was spotted by police made it to the UK and US.
The little boy was recovering in hospital in the NSW Hunter Valley overnight after being found safe and well three days after he disappeared.
“We prayed this morning and my wife just came back from the monastery and prayed, and look what happens, it’s a miracle,” AJ’s father, Anthony, said after the rescue.
He also revealed his son had “some nappy rash and some ant bites”, but “he’s alive”.
The BBC featured the news of the discovery with the headline, Australian boy, 3, rescued after days lost in bush, quoting AJ’s father, Anthony, describing the discovery as a “miracle”.
Meanwhile a section of the UK’s National Police Air Service praised NSW police “from South Wales, UK to New South Wales, AU”.
The three-year-old disappeared last Friday from the family property near Singleton, in the NSW Hunter Region. He is autistic and non-verbal.
A large search of the family’s 650-acre property at Putty had lasted for almost 72 hours and included police, emergency services and volunteers when the miraculous discovery was made.
Dramatic vision from a police helicopter revealed the moment the missing boy was spotted, showing the boy appearing to be covered in mud and cupping water from the creek.
An officer on board the chopper can be heard saying, “I’ve got the boy” before giving coordinates to those on the ground.
The BBC’s China correspondent Stephen McDonell tweeted the “pretty amazing” footage by the NSW Police, describing AJ as a “little legend”.
“They have him on a whopping long lens. He doesn’t seem to know he’s been found,” McDonell said.
Meanwhile the BBC’s Kasia Madera told viewers Australia was “gripped” by the rescue and said the moment was indeed a “miracle”.
In a statement, AJ’s family said “our family is together again” and that AJ is “fine”.
“For that we are grateful to everyone who has assisted in any way over the last three days,” they said.
“Thank you to the NSW Police, Rescue Services, volunteers, community members, friends and family who have worked tirelessly to find AJ.
“AJ is fine. Hold your kids close.
“Please give our family the privacy to appreciate what we have.”
Superintendent Tracy Chapman from the Hunter Valley Police District said what happened to the boy during the three days he was missing would remain under investigation.
“Certainly what occurred during the course of those three days (is under investigation) and I know everyone has lots of questions,” she said.
ABC reporter Jake Lapham, who was at the scene as the discovery took place, said family members “sprinted through bushland” after they realised AJ was alive.
“They stopped their cars and sprinted through this bushland looking for AJ and they finally found some police officers that were comforting him,” Lapham said.
“They were told not only was AJ alive, but he was alive and well.
“It was an incredible moment, the elation was incredible, they were just rolling around on the ground, hugging, embracing.
“The relief must have been amazing.”
NSW Ambulance’s Gerry Pyke said AJ had some lacerations to his lower legs and nappy rash but his spirits “picked up” once he got a cuddle from his mum and dad.
“He was slipping (into sleep) the whole time which (is) not surprising, once he woke up all he wanted to do was eat,” Mr Pyke said.
“He got stuck into about three slices of pizza and a banana so he is pretty good.”
— with NewsWire’s Erin Lyons