The Ontario police officer who found a toddler “alive and well” after the child was lost in the woods north of Kingston, Ont., for more than 72 hours is telling the nearly miraculous story of his recovery.
“That’s the best day I’ve had in the OPP in 25 years,” said provincial Const. Scott McNames, who found three-year-old Jude Leyton in the woods of South Frontenac, Ont., Wednesday just after 3 p.m. He was taken to Kingston General Hospital by Frontenac Paramedics Wednesday, and remains there in stable condition. The hospital says he’s expected to recover.
The toddler went missing Sunday before noon. OPP believe he wandered away from his grandfather’s rural retreat property, which sits off of Canoe Lake Road.
Search and rescue efforts led by OPP’s East Region spanned days and nights. It included helicopters, drones, trained volunteers with OSARVA and water search and rescue teams. Despite these extensive efforts, time passed and Jude remained missing for three agonizing days.
Wednesday, around 3 p.m., more than three full days after the boy disappeared and with no sign of the child, OPP decided to send some of its ground search officers home and focus on water recovery. Still, some officers remained on the ground.
McNames, a long-time OPP officer with the Lanark County detachment, and three other emergency response team members were tasked with searching the bush on the other side of a beaver pond, about one kilometre away from where Jude was last seen.
“As I was tying a piece of flagging tape to a tree branch, I saw something blue up ahead and just off to the right — you don’t see a lot of blue in nature in the bush — and it stood out,” McNames said in an interview with Global News Thursday.
The officers realized it was Jude, sleeping near the pond.
“Then Jude, the little boy, raised his head and opened his eyes and (another officer) said: ‘and he’s alive,’” McNames said.