Eight-year-old boy who went missing on family camping trip says he ‘prayed for being found’
An eight-year-old boy found safe after surviving for two days sheltering under a log and eating snow in a Michigan state park said he prayed he would be found.
Nante Niemi disappeared over the weekend while on a camping trip with his grandfather and uncles in the state’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
“I prayed for being found and not stuck out here for the rest of my life,” the second grader said in an interview with Good Morning America.
He had been with his family collecting firewood when he became separated from them.
“My uncle, he said to go back to camp, and I couldn’t say ‘I don’t know what the way back to camp is’ because he already turned around and left. I was trying to go diagonal into the park where we came from and I ended up by a river and I wasn’t close to the part where we first went up.”
His mother, Jessica Buerger, said: “They took some time to search for him, and they couldn’t find him so they decided they neded to give up and ask for help.”
She added: “I was worred about the cold, and that he was by himself in the dark. We were hoping that he wasn’t walking around at night, and hunkered down.”
Officials say that he was rescued on Monday around two miles away from where his family were camping after being separated from them for 48 hours.
“Nante has been located safe and has been reunited with his family! A volunteer searching found him under/near a log, where’d he been the entire time, about two miles from the campsite. He appears to be in good health!” Michigan State Police tweeted after the boy was found.
“Lieutenant Wickstrom says the boy told them he covered up with branches and leaves for warmth and also blanketed the log he was under. He didn’t have any food but ate clean snow for hydration.
“I just ate snow, because I suually do it in the winter,” Nante said in the interview, prompting his family to laugh.
“He walked a trail yesterday (Sunday) and when he ran out of trail, he figured the best thing to do was to just stop and wait. They offered to carry him out today, but he told the guys who found him that he wanted to walk!”
MSP posted a picture of hitching a ride on the back of one of his rescuers to Twitter.
More than 150 search and rescue personnel took part in the search, which covered 40 square miles of the remote and hilly portion of Michigan’s upper peninsula.
After the first night of his time in the wild, Nante saw a helicopter overhead. “I was waving my hands in the air and yelling at them to get their attention,” he said. “I saw a helmet poke out of the side of the helicopter but they didn’t see me.”
The second morning he woke up hearing noise. “I heard people yelling my name and ... I saw somebody and I ran straight to them.”
Volunteers from Michigan and Wisconsin also took part in the search.
Steve Lombardo, the elementary school principal of the Hurley School District in Wisconsin, said that the safe recovery of the second-grade student had been met with an explosion of joy.
“We announced it to the entire school, and as my colleague said, it was like being at a big football game with our winning touchdown being scored,” Mr Lombardo told ABC News.
“The entire school lit up in cheers, and everybody was just relieved and thankful.”
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, which is nicknamed “the Porkies,” is Michigan’s largest state park. It covers an area of 60,000 acres, including a 35,000-acre old-growth forest.