A Kentucky toddler who has been missing for several days has been found alive, police have announced. According to WSAZ, 22-month-old Kenneth Howard was found near a cliff along Racoon Road on an old strip mine property in the Hueysville area that was less than a mile away from his home, from where he went missing at around 7.30 pm on May 12. The Magoffin County Sheriff's Office announced that he was in "remarkably good condition".
Kenneth was found after a massive rescue operation that involved close to 300 people, helicopters, drones with thermal cameras, K-9 units, and off-road vehicles which were launched following his disappearance on Sunday evening. Rescue crews from Ohio and Tennessee also joined the search.
After three agonizing nights of fruitless searches which saw the young boy alone in terrain which "many adults wouldn't think about traveling", rescue crews found him sitting on a 50-foot rock outcropping that was approximately 1,755 feet from home.
As crews got close to Kenneth, they reportedly heard him crying. They were able to climb up to the outcropping and carried the 22-month-old up another 75 yards to safety without requiring a rescue basket.
Rescuers said they could see where Kenneth had slid down to where he had become trapped. After he was rescued, he repeatedly told them, "Here all night," according to Clay Corbett with the East Kentucky Trackers.
Kenneth's father, Elden Howard, who had offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who returns his son to him, expressed his relief. "Disbelief for a while till they told me they were sure it was him," he said. "I saw a picture of him and said that's my boy. It was getting harder every day. I was starting to think somebody had picked him up."
"It tickled me to death, the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life," he continued, adding, "This was like somebody dropping a big boulder on you when he left. Now it's like somebody picked it up off of you."
The young boy did not suffer any injuries but was found to have been dehydrated. A helicopter was sent to the scene to fly him to Cabell Huntington Hospital for an evaluation and further treatment. "He's a tough little boy," said Elden. "He's stout. I'd say that's what saved him. He can move. To be 22 months old, he's hard to keep up with."
Kentucky State Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding Kenneth's disappearance, with his family suggesting that the 22-month-old may have possibly walked out of the back door of their home when no one was watching.