Saskatchewan toddler missing all night found neck-deep in wheatfield mud hole
'We looked down and saw his blond hair,' says search volunteer Bailee Switzer
The sound of a child's giggle coming from a waist-deep, muddy hole led volunteers on horseback to a toddler who had been missing overnight in a rural area near Aneroid, Sask.
The two-year-old boy, whose name and picture have been removed from this story since he was found safe, had been missing from a nearby property since 9 p.m. CST Monday. Aneroid is about 200 kilometres southwest of Regina.
According to a volunteer firefighter, the missing child had been playing in a farmyard at a family gathering immediately north of the town when he disappeared. The family searched their security cameras and saw the boy leaving the yard.
Some of the durum was as high as three-feet tall, which was taller than the child.- Ponteix deputy fire chief Shelby Layman, on the area where child was found
Police used search dogs and remote-controlled infrared technology from the air to search for the boy without success.
When Bailee Switzer and her boyfriend Wyatt Eirikson heard the boy was missing, they feared the worst.
The couple lives at Sandy Bar Ranch, about 15 kilometres from the search site. Switzer said there are a lot of bodies of water in the area.
Boy was neck-deep in mud
Switzer and Eirikson offered to help volunteer firefighters with the search. The couple saddled up their horses and headed to the search location along with Stephanie Jones, another volunteer.
They searched about an hour with no luck.
"So we were at a sloughy, grassy, boggy area, trying to get our horses to ride through there, but it was such deep mud that we're kind of just riding along the edge," said Switzer.
"And all of a sudden we heard what I think was a giggle and we looked down and saw his blond hair standing — he was standing but he was in such a deep, muddy hole."
She said only the boy's head was above the deep mud in the hole when they found him.
Switzer said Eirikson jumped off his horse and pulled the boy out of the mud. She said they were relieved to see the toddler was alert and talking, adding that he didn't cry at all during the rescue.
Switzer said she had a feeling of shock when she realized the boy was found safe and alive. Even though she didn't know the boy, she almost started crying.
Wheat fields could have hindered search
"I think I just said, 'Hey buddy,' and then I just started shouting that we found him and jumping up and down trying to find someone to alert," said Switzer.
Switzer said it was "incredible" how the community had come together to search for him and that there was a happy ending.
"We just were the lucky ones that spotted him, but everyone was out there helping, so it's crazy, I can't believe it."
Dozens of community members were involved in the search, along with the volunteer firefighters.
Shelby Layman, deputy chief of the Ponteix fire department, said the mood was "anxious" when his crew arrived to help with the search around 10 p.m. Monday.
He said the rural terrain made the search more difficult.
"There were durum (wheat) fields to the east, which is where the child was found. Some of the durum was as high as three feet [one metre] tall, which was taller than the child," said Layman.
"There were a few water holes in the area. and he was actually located not too far from a dugout which we were monitoring throughout the situation because we did believe he was in that proximity."
The Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) also assisted with the air search, while Ministry of Environment officers helped on the ground.