(NEW YORK) — An 8-year-old boy survived for two full days in a Michigan state park after he disappeared while collecting firewood Saturday on a family camping trip.
Search party volunteers found 8-year-old Nante Niemi at 1:30 p.m. local time on Monday, and the boy has since been reunited with his family, according to the Michigan State Police.
Niemi likely got lost while gathering firewood near his family’s campsite in Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, according to a press release from the Michigan State Police. Last seen around 1 p.m. on Saturday, Niemi was rescued roughly two miles from his campsite after 48 hours on Monday.
“He had braved the elements by taking shelter under a log where he was ultimately found,” the press release noted.
Eli Talsma, an 18-year-old who aided in the rescue, told ABC News that Niemi survived for two days without eating or drinking anything.
Talsma said Niemi gathered branches and leaves to cover himself at night. When he saw a helicopter buzzing overhead at one point, Niemi attempted to signal to it, but the pilot appeared not to see him, according to Talsma.
Talsma said Niemi avoided drinking the water in the forest, fearing getting sick. However, he “ate” a few handfuls of snow – his only sustenance over the two-day period, said Talsma.
“If you didn’t know he was in the woods for two days, you wouldn’t know,” Talsma said about the moment rescuers found Niemi under a log.
“I mean, he was just normal. Nante was just walking around. He was talking. He was asking questions. He said he wasn’t hungry,” Talsma said. “He was perfectly fine, but we did give him a Cliff Bar and a banana and some water.”
Michelle Robinson, a Michigan State Police spokeswoman, said she did not know how the boy survived alone, but said Niemi was “in good health and reunited with his family.”
Over 150 search and rescue personnel participated in the search for Niemi, which covered 40 square miles of a remote and hilly portion of Michigan’s upper peninsula. Volunteers from Michigan and Wisconsin also aided in the successful search.
Steve Lombardo, the elementary school principal of the Hurley School District in Wisconsin, said the announcement about Niemi’s safe rescue prompted cheers through the K-12 school building, which had been on edge since the second-grader’s disappearance.
“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,” Lombardo told ABC News. “The entire school lit up in cheers, and everybody was just relieved and thankful.”
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