A 3-year-old boy who was found alive in the woods of eastern North Carolina after he went missing for two days says he spent time with a bear.
Casey Hathaway disappeared last Tuesday. He was last seen playing with two other children in his grandmother’s yard in Ernul, North Carolina, according to Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes.
On Thursday, Casey was found calling for his mother about a quarter of a mile away, about 40- to 50-yards deep into woods. He was soaking wet, cold and tangled in thorn bushes. Hughes said rescuers waded through nearly waist-deep water to get to the toddler.
How did he get there, and how did he stay alive?
“He hung out with a bear for two days,” is what his aunt Breanna Hathaway shared in a now-private Facebook post. She didn’t say whether the bear was real or imagined.
His aunt called her nephew’s safety a “miracle” and said “God sent him a friend to keep him safe.”
Hughes told local station WCTI-TV that Casey gave the same report to authorities: “He did say that he had a friend in the woods that was a bear.”
In an update on Casey’s case, the Craven County Sheriff’s Office shared a photo of Casey alongside a photo of a bear with a Bible verse from Matthew 18: “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.” Authorities say the investigation into his disappearance is ongoing, but there were no signs of an abduction.
The FBI, along with a host of local departments and volunteers, searched for the boy amid heavy rain, temperatures in the 20s, and strong winds after he was reported missing.
Aside from a few scratches, Casey was found in good health and was reunited with his family. His family said he was in good spirits, eating Cheetos and watching “Paw Patrol.”
Police said during a news conference they didn’t believe the boy was stuck in briars the entire time he was missing, but it’s unclear exactly what he was doing.
“This kid was strong, he was meant to survive. … He’s got a story to tell,” Hughes told WCTI.