Missing Six-Year-Old Boy Found After 22 Hours, But He Wasn’t Alone – Legitpost.com.ng
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Missing Six-Year-Old Boy Found After 22 Hours, But He Wasn’t Alone

“To have a child go missing is a parent’s worst fear. That’s why when one little boy, only six years old, disappeared from his home in Tennessee, his parents went through pure agony. Their entire community was shaken to its core and did everything it could to help find the young boy. Even the military deployed a Blackhawk helicopter as part of the search. They feared he was all alone in the woods, a dangerous place for a little boy to be all alone.

After 22 hours, the boy suddenly walked out of the woods, but he wasn’t alone. Hailing from a small community called Top of the World, situated in Blount County, Tennessee, Caden’s parents allowed him to play alone outside as long as he didn’t veer away from his home or wander too far off without permission.

However, on the evening of Monday, April 23, 2018, Caden’s parents grew extremely concerned when their son wasn’t back home by 6 pm. They had no doubt he had enjoyed himself playing outside as he usually did, but by the time evening came around, it was no longer fun and games for them.

Kaden Leach, a good and happy young boy, always enjoyed being outdoors and getting up to mischief like any other six-year-old. He especially loved to play with his pets, in particular, his beloved black and white terrier named Chula.

At first, they thought Kaden was somewhere around the house, but as the minutes ticked by, they decided to alert Blout County Sheriff James Lee Barron. They weren’t going to take any chances, as it was growing cold and dark, and they knew their son didn’t have a coat. There is no doubt that a missing child is any parent’s worst nightmare. A parent naturally wants to protect his or her child no matter what, so when this instinct is put to the test, it can be nothing short of frightening.

That was the case for Kaden Leach’s parents. They couldn’t understand why he suddenly vanished, and all they wanted to do was find him and bring him home safe and sound. They didn’t know it yet, but something very strange was going on. They did have that feeling in the pit of their stomachs, though, knowing there was no time to waste in getting the word out about the missing boy.

The county sheriff enlisted help right away. Usually, one has to wait 24 hours before filing a missing person alert, but in this close-knit community, that didn’t have to be the case for missing Caden. Caden’s parents were worried sick that their child was lost somewhere without even a coat to keep him warm. The sheriff didn’t want them to think of the worst scenario just yet, so he immediately got to work to provide the Leach family with a little relief he could.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released an endangered child alert that evening at 7 pm, reporting the sheriff office’s description of Caden. It implored the community to help locate the boy, noting he was last seen at around 6 p.m. Caden was described by his parents as weighing 60 pounds, standing four feet tall, and having brown hair and blue eyes. They also told the sheriff that Caden was wearing gray sweatpants, a black t-shirt, and slip-on shoes at the time of his disappearance.

The local sheriff launched a search and rescue mission with the help of a military Black Hawk helicopter from the nearby Magee Tyson Air Base. The search began very quickly after James Lee Barong received the phone call from Caden Leach’s parents. Besides recruiting the helicopter to scour the area for Caden, a search and rescue team also conducted a ground operation, which included almost 100 first responders covering a remote mountainous terrain of two thousand acres.

The question that remained was: would this be enough to find the little boy before dark? Ground teams, including the FBI, TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Information), Blount County Sheriff’s Department, Blount County Fire Department, Blount County Search and Rescue Team, as well as Blound County Chief Deputy Jeff French, conducted grid searches around the area to find Caden.

Marion O’Brien, the spokeswoman for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, told WVLT News that along with the military assistance, the ground search teams would search all night if that’s what it would take to locate Caden’s whereabouts. However, there were other searches going on as well. The local community also reached out when word got out about Caden’s disappearance. Blount County Emergency Services broadcast an iPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) message a few hours later to inform everyone about what was going on and provide updates.

As soon as the local community members read the message, they knew they couldn’t sit idly by while a child’s life was hanging in the balance. They thought of their own children and grandchildren, which really struck an emotional chord with them. Not only did the Blount County community receive the iPAWS message, the news also circulated via a smartphone application called Nextdoor, which provides a sort of private social network for neighborhoods. Even if some individuals couldn’t actively help search for Caden Leach, they rallied around doing whatever they could.

One of the local search volunteers told WVLT News, “We’re a very tight community. We try to help everyone. I got a phone call about what was going on. I was coming up the mountain from work and just shot straight over and did everything I could to help.”

When one of the neighborhood’s residents, Megan Kessler, heard the news about poor little Kaden’s disappearance, she took it upon herself to launch her own initiative to help the search and rescue volunteer and emergency teams with food and water. “We knew it was going to be a long night,” she told WVLT News. “We brought coffee, chili, whatever they needed. We wanted to make sure we could supply it. They wouldn’t let us search, so we did what we could.”

Just when everyone was out helping and spreading the news, a Facebook post was released by the Tennessee Endangered Child Alert. The post, which was shared by WBIR Channel 10, contained a picture and description of Kaden Leach and the surrounding circumstances. Not long after, the post was updated with more information. It was shared more than 2,000 times and received more than 350 reactions. It was clear that the whole community was in it together with Caden’s parents. The message spread like wildfire.

Despite all the efforts by the search and rescue teams, along with the assistance of local volunteers, the search seemed to be fruitless. Caden was nowhere to be found, and it had grown dark and cold already. Time was running short, and authorities were also concerned that Caden might suffer from a respiratory infection if he wasn’t found soon. He wasn’t wearing warm enough clothes, and that could prove fatal for such a young boy. This just made the search even more urgent.

The search continued on through the next day, with a focus on the area that was within a half-mile radius of Caden Leach’s home. They needed to wait for daylight to expand the search further again into the rural and mountainous surrounding area.

Naturally, Caden’s parents were worried sick about their precious son. They were frightened, nervous, and even felt guilty for letting him play outside. It would take some more time, but soon they’d find out that their son was okay and not alone.

Blount County’s community had proven just how dedicated and close-knit the members really were by staying up through the night, handing out water and snacks to the rescue teams. The first responders were working tirelessly to find Caden, and it was the least they could do.

No one was prepared to give up just yet; they knew Caden had to be somewhere. It was just a matter of staying focused, dedicated, and not giving up on the mission until he was safe at home. And they weren’t giving up yet.

When the morning daylight came, it was easier to look for Caden in the daylight. It was not an easy task, but that didn’t prevent anyone from giving up just yet. Hopefully, they’d find him in daylight, safe and sound. The search crews had more ideas of where to look, so it was time to buckle down and find the missing boy as soon as possible. His parents were so worried; their child was starving, scared, and alone. So everyone prayed he was okay.

The search crews ran to the lake to see if Caden had maybe fallen in or drowned, but he was nowhere to be seen there. While the ground search was going on, the Black Hawk helicopter also continued its search from the air.

When he wasn’t seen by the lake, the search teams looked on the mountainsides and even in several abandoned buildings to see if perhaps Caden hid in a building overnight, hiding for protection against the cold. But unfortunately, they weren’t that lucky.

The morning hours ticked by, and Kaden Leach was still missing. His parents tried to guess where he could have wandered off to or if something more sinister could have occurred, the latter of which was very rare in their community. It just didn’t make sense to them that he would have suddenly disappeared, as he knew his curfew and how far he was allowed to venture out in the surrounding area. Something didn’t add up, and Caden’s parents knew it in their hearts.

The rescue volunteers tried to get into the mind of a six-year-old boy. They wanted to imagine where he could have gone while playing outside. This required them to think a little out of the box and think like a child. They decided to look at places in areas they wouldn’t have otherwise considered, like deep in the woods and other abandoned buildings in the area. Little did they know it yet, but they were getting much closer to finding Caden than they knew.

Once the search crew entered the stretch of woods near the Top of the World community, they vigorously scanned the entire area. If Caden wasn’t there, then they weren’t really sure where else he could have gone the night before. The afternoon was creeping by, so all the volunteers knew they had to keep searching before night fell once again. The clock was ticking.

It was just at that moment when they heard a noise coming from the woods that piqued their interest. About 22 hours after Caden Leach had gone missing, the rescue teams were finally onto something. They suddenly heard a growl coming from inside the woods, and as they moved closer, the growling grew louder and stronger.

Not knowing what they might find, they continued after the sound. They had to investigate where this growling was coming from as it sounded very much like it belonged to a dog. On the other hand, they were in the woods, so it could have been a number of different things. The search teams and volunteers approached the sound of the growling when suddenly they spotted Caden.

They were only about a half a mile from his home, so it turns out that he hadn’t gone too far the night before. He must have lost his bearings and, paralyzed from fear, stayed where he was and didn’t move. However, what came as the biggest surprise to everyone was that Caden wasn’t alone the entire time he was missing. There was someone by his side.

Cayden Leach was found around 3:30 pm, about 22 hours since he was first noticed to be missing the evening before. When he was found, the growling turned out to be that of his faithful black and white terrier dog, Chula. The dog growled at the rescuers when they approached Caden, so the dog is a protector, claimed BCSD Chief Deputy Jeff French. Indeed, Chula had done her best to keep Caden safe the entire night they were in the woods.

When Caden was found, he didn’t look well. The rescuers asked him if he was okay and how he was feeling. He said, “very cold.” His skin was purple and cold, and his gray sweatpants and black t-shirt couldn’t have been enough to keep him warm all night. The search team also asked the boy where he lived, and he gave the address. Once that was established, they told Caden they were taking him to safety immediately; he needed some medical attention.

While Chula, the dog, also needed some attending to, before first responders took Caden Leach home, they thought it was best to take him to Blount Memorial Hospital first to get evaluated by medical personnel.

They wanted to make sure he wasn’t suffering from hypothermia or any other medical issues. His family was so relieved when they finally got to see their precious little Caden again. They also couldn’t believe how brave Chula had been through the whole ordeal. It sounded like something out of a book or a movie.

While Caden was being evaluated at Blount Memorial Hospital, his family released a statement about their boy’s return. At first, no information was released about his condition or all the facts behind his disappearance, but they wanted to give thanks to the incredible rescue teams and local volunteers.

“We’re so thankful to everyone from local law enforcement agencies to volunteers who helped us find Caden. The amount of support we have received has been tremendous, even from people we don’t know. We appreciate all our friends and neighbors and ask for privacy at this time,” wrote Caden’s parents.

News of Caden’s return was also met with much celebration by the media and on social media. “So glad he was found safe,” wrote one well-wisher on Facebook. Another person commented, “That they had the little guy on my mind since I found out he was lost… something he can tell his grandkids. Thank God.”

Just as much as the community spent 22 agonizing hours searching for Caden, so too did they express the same kind of joy when they heard he was found safe along with his dog on the news. It seemed to comfort them that he wasn’t alone through the night. The Top of the World community experienced a whirlwind of emotions for 22 hours, and the switch from concern to relief was felt by all. It reminded them of their own children, so everyone reached out as best they could.

It was also a huge moment for everyone in the entire county when Caden was found. They were praying to hear that he made it back safe and sound and were so happy to hear the nightmare was finally over.

The sheriff was also thankful when Caden was found; he became really emotional when thanking everyone on local TV. “I want to thank all these men and women who spent the last 20-something hours out here in the dark, the cold, and the rain,” he said. “We had the FBI, TBI, Blount County Sheriff’s Department, Blount County Fire Department, Blount County Rescue Squad. It was a team effort, and we couldn’t have done it without the help,” he concluded.

But there was someone else they had to thank as well. The sheriff also thanked his deputy officer, Daniel Self, for helping Chula the dog. He held the dog and made sure she was okay, giving her water and some food.

Everyone was so thrilled to know that Chula had been Caden’s guardian angel throughout the night. The bond between a dog and a human proves insurmountable, especially during trying times. Chula was so heroic and never left Caden’s side for one minute; she is definitely the reason he made it through the cold and dark night all alone in the woods.

The Top of the World community in Tennessee was definitely feeling on top of the world when Caden was found on that frantic Tuesday afternoon. Everything really did take a 180-degree turn from the moment he was found in the woods. If you liked the video, please give it a thumbs up and consider sharing it with your friends and family.

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