"It's a miracle. He has been bitten by ants and he has fallen over but he is alive."
A three-year-old boy missing for three days in the Australian bushland has been found — alive.
Anthony "AJ" Elfalak, who is autistic and nonverbal, disappeared from his family's rural home in Putty just after noon on Friday, in what was initially believed to be an abduction.
After a frantic 72-hour search involving hundred of volunteers, sniffer dogs, and police, on foot, dirt bikes and helicopters, the child was found at a riverbank at 11:30 AM Monday morning, with barely a scratch on him.
Paramedics marveled the boy was in "remarkable" condition considering he'd been lost in the bush for three days, apparently suffering just some lacerations to his lower legs.
"Once mum and dad were cuddling him, his spirits picked up. He was on the back of the ambulance for about 1.5 hours … sleeping the whole time, which wasn't surprising. Once he woke up, all he wanted to to do was eat," New South Wales ambulance spokesman Gerry Pyke said. "He got stuck into about three slices of pizza and a banana so he is pretty good."
"It was inherent that he is a little survivor," he added.
While everyone was overjoyed at finding the boy alive, investigators still have questions about how the child managed to survive for three days alone, without food, when overnight temperatures dropped to just 35F degrees — just above freezing — and how he managed to evade the search parties in an area that was thoroughly searched, by both sniffer dogs below and thermal imaging sensors above.
They have not ruled out the possibility he was abducted, and then somehow returned to the area.
The family initially feared he had been kidnapped; after reporting him missing, his mother insisted her son was "not a wanderer", while his father added: "A kid just doesn't pick up and disappear."
"This boy has never wandered off, this is out of character for him," he said.
Other puzzle pieces have not yet been explained: on Sunday police seized a white utility vehicle that was reportedly seen driving away from the Elfalak property around the time of his disappearance.
There's also the question of the reported four hours of missing footage from the family's CCTV.
While the investigation is still ongoing, Police Superintendent Tracy Chapman said the oddities could very easily have reasonable explanations and that the boy did simply wander off.
'I know everyone has lots of questions. So we need to try and understand what has occurred over the past three days. I don't understand what has happened with some CCTV footage, however, it is subsequently part of our inquiries," she said.
She added it was "a motion-detected CCTV and there could be any number of reasons" why it wasn't recording.
She said the boy could have also been taking shelter in wombat holes, adding that his access to water was a key reason he would have been able to survive.
For now, she said she was treating the story as a good news one.
"We have a three-year-old boy who many people probably expected was not alive and he's been located and been returned to his family," she said.
"We are certainly happy with where things are at the moment. We'll continue that investigation to be entirely comfortable but from our perspective it's simply a good-news story."