After seven exhaustive hours, a three-year-old boy who wandered off from camp Friday night was found peacefully sleeping by a log.
The boy was reportedly playing with other children near where his family was camping by the Pine Canyon Trail when he separated from the group around 8:30 p.m.
“The reporting party said the kids were playing in a creek bottom near the Pine trailhead and were to return at dark, but the child did not come back with the others,” said Lt. Tim Scott with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.
The boy’s family and friends searched, and when they could not find him, called the GCSO who called out Tonto Rim Search and Rescue (TRSAR) volunteers and the Department of Public Safety Ranger helicopter.
For hours, 18 TRSAR volunteers and the boy’s family and friends hastily checked the surrounding forest.
TRSAR’s newest member, Ringo, was even called out to put his tracking skills to the test. Ringo and another K-9 from the sheriff’s office followed a scent for the boy down the side of Highway 87, but never crossed over.
After hours of looking, searchers began a more meticulous line search, eventually crossing over the highway.
Around 3:30 a.m., the boy was found sleeping by a log on the other side of the highway from where he was playing.
“When they called his name, his head popped up by this log,” said TRSAR Commander Bill Pitterle, who was out of town during the search.
The boy was uninjured and in good health.
Based on this search, volunteers will work with Ringo on searching over roadways, Pitterle said.
“He had not been trained about going over highways,” he said.
This was the third mission Ringo participated in. Ringo and his handlers recently attended training at the Arizona Search and Rescue K-9 Conference in Flagstaff along with more than 50 other search dogs.