A citizen’s tip led city police to the Centennial Tower area of Owen Sound Thursday morning, where they found a missing teen safe after he got lost on a ramble along the Harrison Park trails and left the park Wednesday night.
At 10:34 a.m., 13-year-old Zachary Harding exited a city police SUV which pulled up to the doors of the Harrison Park community centre, where he was reunited with his parents inside. He was last seen about 4 p.m. the day before.
He’d been the subject of a huge city police and OPP search through the night involving about two dozen police officers, four police dogs and a helicopter, after the boy failed to meet his grandfather at the appointed time.
Zachary’s smiling father, Ralph Harding, emerged from the centre a few minutes later to talk with reporters. His father and mother had spent the night in the park while police searched. Harding said their son simply got lost.
“Spent the night in a cave, ate berries. So all that wilderness training paid off and the Owen Sound police just found him,” Harding said, referring to family camping trips which may have helped Zach cope.
Harding was grateful for all of the police efforts, he said with emotion. “It’s an amazing, amazing operation.”
Harding said his son thought he slept 12 hours in the cave. Zach was dressed lightly in short-sleeves for the beautiful fall day it was after school. But it got down to six degrees Wednesday night, Harding noted.
“His clothes are dry. He looks fine,” Harding said with a relieved laugh. “He’s doing better than us.”
Harding said his son “got playing, he lost track of time, he missed the meeting point with his grandpa, went up a trail and got lost. And he couldn’t find his way back to the park. He ended going actually the opposite way in the dark, to where it’s Highway 6/10.”
Asked what went through his mind overnight, Harding said “We have great faith in God.” He noted their minister happened to be walking through the park with her husband as they walked their dog at 6:30 a.m. and were “a wonderful support.”
Zach is a Grade 8 student at Alexandra Community School in Owen Sound. He lives with his family in the country near Leith and is used to playing in the woods after school.
“So he’s quite at home in the woods. He’s quite familiar. He’s not a video-gamer, he’s kind of an old, classic kid, you know, goes outside, rides his bike.” ….
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