Missing 6-year-old found
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | November 26,2012
SUNDERLAND — A search for a 6-year-old boy who went missing while hunting with his family had a happy ending Sunday.
A ground team located Joseph “Jo Jo” McCray of Arlington near the Glastenbury Mountain summit, alive and well, Sunday morning. He was located a mile and three quarters from where he was last seen off Route 7, near exit 3, in Sunderland on Saturday.
Joseph was taken out of the woods wrapped in a thermal blanket on the back of an all-terrain vehicle. Bennington Rescue Squad transported him to a local hospital and treated him for hypothermia.
“The boy did talk when we found him. He was very cold, his feet were wet, and he had a good amount of clothing on — camouflage overalls, long johns, heavy wool coat and a hat. He was dressed for the elements,” Arlington Fire Chief James Paustian said.
Joseph was last seen by his family at 1 p.m. Saturday, according to Vermont State Police.
His father, Joseph McCray Sr., took his children into a wooded area not far from Orvis Headquarters on Conservation Way in Sunderland.
According to Paustian, they were trying to drive a deer herd toward South Road in Sunderland which Paustian estimated to be a 20- to 30-minute hike. Joseph did not meet up with his family at the South Road rendezvous point.
The family retraced their footsteps but could not find Joseph. Paustian said the McCrays “bypassed each other” and then called state police when they failed to locate him.
State police said Joseph was not an experienced hunter, nor was he familiar with the area. Paustian and Joseph’s aunt, Tina Guile of Bennington, confirmed that Joseph’s father was familiar with the area.
State police, Arlington Fire Department, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, and a K-9 unit from Canterbury, N.H., walked a half mile into the area where the McCrays began their drive. Fifteen individuals searched in a line 50 feet apart, but were unsuccessful in locating Joseph.
Police set up a command post at Orvis Headquarters, and the Manchester, Shaftsbury, Bennington Village and Bennington Rural Fire Departments provided mutual aid.
Hundreds of volunteers took part in the search. More K-9 units were called in and the Vermont National Guard and U.S. Border Patrol conducted helicopter searches.
Seven teams comprised of 10 to 15 members searched within a mile-and-a-half radius from the Orvis Headquarters command post. Joseph was outside their range and remained in the area until sunrise.
“He actually made a long trek for a youth that size,” Paustian said. “The terrain is vertical with a lot of big boulders. He went to the highest location and that’s where he was found. He curled up under a pine tree, slept a little bit, got up at daylight, and a few minutes later they had him in sight.”
Paula Harper, of the New England K-9 Search and Rescue organization, said this was one of the longest operations she’s ever been a part of. Many search and rescues, she said, last between four and six hours.
The search for Joseph began Saturday afternoon and ended early Sunday morning, which she thought was an anomaly, but his behavior was very similar to other youths who get lost in unfamiliar territory.
“This young man seemed to be typical of boys his age in terms of how far away they go and what they do,” Harper said. “I’ve been searching 16 years. They do this all the time.”
Family members celebrated at the police command post upon hearing the news that “Jo Jo” was safe.
As for Guile, the wait was finally over and Joseph was back with his parents safe and sound.
“He’s alive. We’re happy. That’s all we can ask for,” she said.
State police said no charges are expected to be filed in the case.