- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

3:12 p.m.

McGRADY, N.C. (AP) — Park rangers were escorting a weak and dehydrated boy out of the rugged North Carolina mountains today, four days after a 12-year-old Boy Scout wandered away from his troop’s campsite, officials said.

“We have our missing Boy Scout,” said a jubilant National Park Service spokeswoman Tina White.

Miss White said she didn’t have details about where the boy was found but said officials first received word he had been found shortly before 11 a.m. within a mile and a half of the Scout campsite.

“Search and rescuers who located him have their hands on him. He is in the care of search and rescue workers,” Miss White said. “Probably the most important thing we heard on the radio is A-1, which means he is in good condition.”

Miss White said she was confident the boy was Michael Auberry. The boy’s parents and rangers were on their way to meet the group, she said.

The radio communication set off a celebration among leaders of several Scout troops waiting for news about the boy. “A lot of tears, a lot of hugs,” Miss White said.

Earlier, Michael’s father talked about his confidence in the rescue teams searching for his son in the damp, cool mountains of western North Carolina.

“What we got here is our son, who’s lost, lost somewhere out there, and we don’t know where he is,” Mr. Auberry said. “We’ve got great professionals looking for him. We’re just waiting for the news.”

Dog teams and a plane with heat-sensing equipment had been searching the rugged area around the campsite.

Michael vanished after lunch with his fellow Scouts and troop leaders on Saturday. His father said the adults and the other boys on the trip told him Michael had slept late but nothing appeared to have been wrong.

“Nothing was going on. He was in good spirits,” Mr. Auberry said. “He ate lunch, chatting with the boys. He was walking around with I think some Pringles and a mess kit. The next moment, sounds like a blink of the eye, he was gone.

“They do a great job in the Scouts of educating the kids of what to beware of and tips. I’m hopeful that Michael has taken those to heart,” he said. “I hope he’s hunkered down. I hope he’s found a warm place.”

Searchers found Michael’s mess kit late Saturday within a mile of the campsite, and Miss White said they also had found a candy wrapper and a potato-chip bag.

Though the weather has been chilly, Miss White said Michael was wearing two jackets, one of them fleece. “We’ve had people who have been out a week or longer and survived,” she said.

Michael had stayed behind with an adult leader Saturday morning while the rest of the troop went for a hike “because apparently he wanted to sleep in,” said David Bauer, a ranger with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Michael was there when the troop returned for lunch, but the group of about 10 Scouts and their three adult leaders soon noticed he was missing, Mr. Bauer said.

Authorities said the boy probably wandered into the woods to explore.

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