LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The story captured the nation: A 22-month-old Kentucky boy missing for days in Magoffin County was miraculously found alive and unharmed.
The safe return of Kenneth Howard, now known as the Mountain Miracle, is reminiscent of a missing child who was found safe in our area about a year ago. In both cases, rescuers seemed as overwhelmed as the families as the days wore on.
First-responders in Magoffin County, and those in Bullitt County last year, were overwhelmed with anxiety as both searches for toddlers lasted more than a day. Many times, such searches don’t have a happy ending, so they were all overwhelmed with joy when the child they were looking for was found safe.
Magoffin County Search and Rescue Chief Carter Conley gave an update on the boy on Thursday afternoon, a day after he was found.
“This little kid was calm, cool, collected,” Conley said. “Whatever you might say, to be 22 months old.”
Howard was found three days after he disappeared. His father, Elden Howard, said he couldn’t believe it.
“It tickled me to death,” he said of the news Wednesday. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.” Rescue crews were equally overjoyed after the child’s cries were heard about a mile from his home at an old strip mine near the Magoffin-Floyd County line.
Conley said of the exhaustive search,
“I have been on a lot and this was one of the few that was successful,” Conley said.
Trying to stay positive wasn’t easy as countless emergency workers, search dog crews and hundreds of volunteers looked through rough terrain. It stirred memories of a very similar search in another part of the Commonwealth.
“It brings back, me seeing her in the ambulance,” remembered Southeast Bullitt Fire Chief Erik Butler.
Butler was referring to the day when 2-year-old Charlee Campbell was found after a two-day search in a hilly wooded area near her grandmother’s home in Lebanon Junction.
“We was at the grandparents’ house when the dog that was with her, come down the hill,” Butler said.
Moments later, word surfaced that Campbell showed up at a neighbor’s home.
“It was like, ‘Thank God!’” Butler said.
Butler also said that with so many in the community looking for the child, the pressure was emotional and intense.
“I couldn’t tell you how many people was out there; it was so many we had to turn people away,” he said, adding that the sight of the child’s face after fear that they wouldn’t see her alive again was something he will never forget. “It was like, ‘Wow, you know, thank the good Lord, we found her.’”
As for Howard, other than being treated for dehydration, the boy is said to be doing well after being flown to a pediatric trauma center.
The circumstances surrounding his disappearance Sunday are still not clear.