A toddler who survived three freezing nights without food in the hostile Australian bush was not scared and didn’t panic, detectives say.
Anthony “AJ” Elfalak, 3, disappeared into the harsh bushland around his home in Putty, a village two hours drive north of Sydney on Friday.
Police and survival experts led a 130-man rescue operation through the unforgiving terrain of the 649-acre property.
Helicopters spotted the “miracle boy” several miles from his home on Monday morning, sitting by a creek and drinking water.
The detectives who found little AJ are convinced his autism helped create a calm state of mind, which saved him from a horrific end in the wild.
Social media users say the rescue was a hoax and that its impossible a three-year-old could survive three nights in the hostile bush.
AJ had no food and overnight temperatures were as low as 2C with highs of 27C in the daytime.
But, investigators on Strike Force Jaylang – responsible for AJ’s rescue – say his condition stopped him from panicking which ultimately lead to his survival.
‘The reality is he didn’t know he was lost… so he wasn’t scared, he didn’t panic,’ an investigator told the MailOnline. ‘If he was tired, he slept… he had access to water, which is a big thing for survival in the bush.’
AJ’s behaviour and mild injuries were consistent with him being in the bush for three full days, detectives said.
When the youngster was bundled in the back of a waiting ambulance, emergency crews said he gorged on a whole pizza and “guzzled” water – often seen among people “starved” for extended periods of time.
‘He was starving… it’s all consistent with him being in the bush the entire time,’ a paramedic said.
The ambulance rushed the youngster to Singleton Hospital, where his minor scratches and bruises were treated.
After being told AJ had been found, mum Kelly fell to her knees and thanked members of the 130-strong search team who helped track the little one down.
“Thank you everyone, thanks God, thank you for whoever prayed for us. Thank you for everyone who supported us,” she told Northern Beach Review.
Calling his rescue a “miracle”, dad Anthony Elfalak recalled the intense search effort and his frayed nerves while trying to find his son.
“I’ve been in the bush for four days, no sleep,” he said. “We didn’t stop.”
Anthony said finding his “baby boy” was what kept him going.
He added the youngster was found around 500 metres from the family home.
The Child Mind institute says kids with autism are more likely to wander due to a “weaker sense of danger than other kids”.
They can become “fixated” on following something they find interesting and can soon get lost.
Sensory overload from flashing lights or loud noises often force autistic children to wander away from the stimulus.
The institute adds that autistic children are at “high risk of getting lost or hurt” and can “end up in dangerous places like highways or bodies of water”.
Thinking the lad may have been kidnapped, police seized a white people carrier on Sunday and checked an abandoned property near the home.
Footage from when the lad was last seen had also vanished, a friend said.
Following AJ’s rescue, his family hosted an enormous party to celebrate their “miracle boy’s” return.
According to reports the revellers cleared their local off-license of $700-worth of booze, and cows and sheep were slaughtered to put on the barbecue.
There was an open invitation to “anyone in Sydney” to come down and celebrate the youngster’s safe return.
AJ and mum Kelly returned from Maitland Hospital to the party, and told everyone to clear off so exhausted AJ could get some shuteye.
He’d been bitten by ants and had nappy rash, but was otherwise in good condition.
Dozens of his relatives had driven down from Sydney to join the search party to hunt the little AJ down in the bush.
Locals were urged to take a Covid test after a member of the search party showed positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday.
The youngster hasn’t left his mum’s side since he got home, relatives say.