The 3-year-old boy who spent two days lost in the woods of eastern North Carolina tells his family he “hung out with a bear” for companionship while hundreds of people searched frantically in cold and rainy weather to find him.
His aunt, Breanna Hathaway, shared that revelation on Facebook Friday morning, adding that Casey “is healthy, smiling, and talking” after being found late Thursday night. The post has gotten more than 500 comments and 2,100 shares through the day.
“He said he hung out with a bear for two days,” she posted. “God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is (a) good God. Miracles do happen.”
Casey spent Thursday night being examined by doctors at CarolinaEast Medical Center, and hospital staff said Friday that he was “in good condition and will be released later today or tomorrow,” according to TV station WBTW. His mother, Brittany Hathaway, remained by his side at the hospital.
The family said Friday that a post office box is being set up to handle the sudden outpouring of support for the boy, who spent the day in a hospital bed “eating Cheetos, nuggets, and watching PAW Patrol.”
“Thank you to everyone who wants to send things to welcome Casey home and put a smile on his face,” posted Breanna Hathaway. “Both him and his big sister have endured so much over the last three days, so we thank you for wanting to be so kind to them.”
Casey was found late Thursday, stuck in a tangle of vines and thorns, about a half a mile from where he went missing, Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes said in a press conference streamed by WRAL.
Authorities say they were aided by a 911 call from someone who reported hearing “Casey crying for his mother deep in the woods,” reported TV station WSOC. A team rushed to the area and followed the sound of the boy’s voice, Chocowinity EMS Captain Shane Grier told WCTI.
The 911 caller, according to WRAL, was a woman who was walking her dogs when she heard the boy “crying out.”
The New Bern Sun Journal says the 25-pound boy “was wet, cold, and scratched up…but speaking” when found by rescuers who waded through “waist-deep” water.
Casey had been missing since Tuesday, when he wandered from his grandmother’s yard while playing with other children, said the Craven County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook post.
Hundreds of volunteers joined law enforcement agencies to search “treacherous” terrain that is flooded and dotted with sinkholes, the sheriff’s office said on Facebook. “Even the trained searchers are having trouble navigating safely,” said the post.
TV station WSOC reported Friday that authorities don’t know how far the boy strayed during the two days, but “believe he was moving around most of the time he was lost.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Breanna Hathaway’s relationship to 3-year-old Casey Hathaway. She is his aunt.