An 18-year-old autistic boy feared lost in the wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia, US, was rescued Thursday. He is doing fine, though weak and exhausted, his rescuers reported. Jacob Allen had wandered away from his parents while hiking.
"He was very quiet, he was nonverbal," said Jeremy Reneau, 25, the first to spot Allen. "But you could tell by his body language he was hungry."
The crew of Team Oscar — a group of nine rescue personnel — found Allen asleep in an open clearing surrounded by laurel and rhododendron, reports InterMountain, a local newspaper.
"It was almost four days to the hour," said Chris Stadelman, the public information officer who made the announcement from Dryfork Assembly of God at about 5 p.m. "It was truly a miracle."
Allen was transported to Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins and was listed in good condition.
"He's learned many, many things from being in the wilderness. He's learned to adapt to the outside," Karen Allen, Jacob's mother, said Friday. "The good thing is he doesn't know that he's lost so he will have no emotional trauma from this.
"Jacob is doing very well. He tried to get out of the hospital bed all night," she said. "God put him where he was so we could find him. We will all take something home from this."
Rescuer Jeremy Reneau said, "I saw a blond head of hair and he was laying down napping. I called out his name and he opened his eyes and looked at me."
He went on to check Allen for injuries and gave him food and water.
"He knew we were giving him food and he became alert and sat up," Reneau said. "He started eating and drinking. He loves chocolate."
Once located, it took rescue crews about 2 1/2 hours to get him to the base camp where he could be reunited with his family. Team Oscar walked him as far as he could before fatigue set in and Allen needed to rest. Eventually, rescue crews were able to acquire a stretcher to carry him.
"I just feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and team work," Reneau said.
"We just happened to be the ones that saw the young man," Jim Reneau said. "We were all very emotional."
Team Oscar members said Allen was cold and shivering when they found him. One member said, "I put gloves on him and he stuck his fingers out."
Another member helped Allen change his socks because they were wet and cold.
Allen was found approximately one mile from where his hat was found Monday. Members of Team Oscar said they found his fanny pack 20 yards from Allen, then found his shoes 10 yards later.
"We searched that area again and again," said Don Scelza of Appalachian Search and Rescue, who coordinated the search. "We searched that area five or six times before."
About 300 volunteer and professional rescuers, as well as Allen's sister Brittany, 22, and Micah, 14, have searched since Sunday, combing the 10-square-mile area where Allen was finally located.