James Delorey, 7, was found Monday afternoon after spending two nights in the woods. He died in hospital hours later.

The Nova Scotia boy rescued after spending two frigid nights in the woods has died.

James Delorey, 7, died early Tuesday at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, the children's hospital confirmed.

"We want to express our deepest sympathies to the family," Jocelyn Vine, vice-president of patient care, said at a news conference Tuesday, her voice cracking with emotion.

Hospital officials said the little boy's family was at his bedside. In a statement read by Vine, James's mother, Veronica, thanked everyone involved in her son's care.

James, who had autism and did not speak, was found Monday afternoon huddled in an area of thick brush and snow about a kilometre from his home in South Bar, near Sydney. He was unconscious and suffering from hypothermia and was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

Vine said the hospital has specialized equipment and techniques to treat children with severe hypothermia. But she wouldn't comment on James's treatment, saying she was honouring the family's wishes for privacy.

"As you can imagine, our teams are also very sad," said Vine.

Statement from Delorey family via IWK Health Centre:

"The family would like to thank everyone involved in James's care. It was amazing to see how everyone would come together. It really kept my hopes alive. We will have more to say later after we've had some time."

James was the subject of a massive search that involved search-and-rescue crews from around the province and hundreds of community volunteers.

The boy disappeared from his home on Saturday afternoon, apparently following the family dog, Chance, out of the backyard. He was dressed in jeans, a shirt and a vest — nothing fit for the cold weather that later hit the area.

Searchers had to alter their regular techniques in the search for James. They yelled out key words for the boy, such as "pizza," and hoped by alerting Chance, the dog would lead them to James.

Police also sought advice from a mother who has a child with autism.

Chance returned home on Monday morning, providing searchers with a fresh clue. One team followed the dog's trail back into the woods while another team headed in from the opposite direction.

James was found by a brook near Kilkenny Lake.

Within hours, dozens of well-wishers gathered in Sydney's Wentworth Park for an impromptu vigil. Some held candles; others prayed and sang.

Search-and-rescue officials said no one will know for sure how the boy survived in the snow and cold, but they suspect the thick brush might have helped and he may have huddled with Chance.