Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Traveller spots toddler wandering near ditch

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Savannah Malyon embraces her son, Nathaniel, as they leave the Portage hospital Saturday afternoon.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Savannah Malyon embraces her son, Nathaniel, as they leave the Portage hospital Saturday afternoon. Photo Store

The news bulletin prompted Cory Wilson to glance out the passenger window of his brother's truck Saturday morning as they drove west on the Trans-Canada Highway.

A three-year-old boy had vanished from his home in Sidney, Man., about 10:30 p.m. the night before, the announcer said.

Wilson and his travelling companions were nearing the tiny community, so he turned to his right and peered out the window.

There, stepping out from the tall grass along the north ditch, was missing toddler Nathaniel Dailey.

"I heard it on the radio and I just looked to see if anyone was walking through the bush -- and the kid came out," said Wilson, speaking to the Free Press on Sunday.

"I said, 'Stop the truck. There's the kid.'"

And with that, Nathaniel was found alive and well, five kilometres east of Sidney around 11 a.m. Saturday after going missing for more than 12 hours, enduring a night of sub-zero temperatures with just his pajamas and socks on.

His discovery ended a frantic hunt that started Friday night when the child left his bed and walked out the front door of his home in Sidney, about 60 kilometres west of Portage la Prairie, disappearing without a trace.

A quick search of the immediate area by his parents, Savannah Malyon and Matthew Dailey, turned up nothing. So they called their neighbours, friends and family for help.

As the night wore on, more and more people began to arrive to help with the search.

"Everywhere you looked, there were flashlights," recalled Sidney resident Sharon Thiessen, who didn't sleep that night. "There were people walking up and down every street, calling his name."

Portage RCMP were called and a plane with thermal imaging flew over the region. The Winnipeg Police Service volunteered its helicopter to assist, as well, and search dogs were also used.

By morning, more than 150 trained and untrained volunteers were combing the area for any sign of Nathaniel.

Cory, 41, his brother Ken, 38, and their 11-year-old niece, Ivy, were making the trip from their home in Gladstone to Brandon to buy a new bike for the youngster when they spotted the missing boy.

"Kenny stopped the truck and he ran down to the ditch. I got out and told him to phone 911, and we got hold of the RCMP and told them where we were," said Cory.

"After (Nathaniel) walked out of the long grass, he just sat down right in front of us and he was mumbling a bit.

"Kenny took his jacket off and was wrapping it around the boy, and he grabbed for it because he was cold. He picked him up and held him."

Within 10 minutes, family members arrived at the side of the highway, and the RCMP and paramedics were right behind.

The Wilsons remained at the emotional scene for about two hours, well after the ambulance took Nathaniel back to Sidney to be reunited with his parents.

"After it happened, I was numb. I just wanted to go home. It was all just mind-blowing," Cory said.

"It was overwhelming. There are so many things that could have happened to him.

"He crossed four lanes of the highway at nighttime. Nobody saw him, and there was over 130 people looking. That's a big forest out there. He had no jacket, just his PJs and bare feet. If he did have socks on when he left, I don't know where they are now."

The boy was immediately taken to Portage District General Hospital and then transferred to Children's Hospital in Winnipeg for observation.

With just a few scratches to show for his ordeal, he was released Saturday night.

"I'm so happy for all these people that came together and so grateful for everyone," Malyon told reporters Saturday. "This is just amazing; all this manpower coming together to help find my son. It's just amazing. I'm just so grateful he's found now. I'm so happy and ready to see him.

"I was just beside myself," she continued.

"I haven't really slept or anything. It was just horrible. It was cold out and dark and, oh my God, there's so many thing that could have happened to him. The highway is right there, the train tracks are here... I was so worried."

Nathaniel managed to slip out an unlocked door after some family and friends stopped by for a visit Friday night.

"It was just in a matter of seconds and he was gone," said Malyon.

Nathaniel's father was equally thankful it all worked out.

"I'm ready to collapse. I guess I haven't been this nervous since (he was) born -- that's the only way I can describe it," Dailey said Saturday.

Malyon's cousin, Samantha Giberson, spoke on behalf of the family Sunday.

"We just appreciate what everyone did for us. Every single, solitary person gave us so much help and support. The community was amazing," she said.

"We couldn't have asked for a more perfect ending."

Cory said luck, more than anything else, helped end the nightmare for Nathaniel's family.

"We were just there at the right time," said Cory, who got a chance to have a short chat with Nathaniel's mom Sunday and was thrilled to hear the boy is doing fine.

"I told her the heroes of this story were the people who joined the search at 11 o'clock at night and were out there all night. For us, it was basically just luck -- looked over our shoulder and there he was."

 

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 6, 2013 A4

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