A Kentucky child who had been missing for three days has been found alive by rescue teams in Kentucky, who located the toddler by the side of a steep cliff near an old strip mine.
22-month-old Kenneth Howard was found within 1800 feet of his home in an overgrown area near the strip mine, according to USA Today. The child had been missing for nearly three days after vanishing, and the family had issued a $5000 reward for his return.
The search, which ended on Wednesday shortly after 2 PM local time, had employed dogs, drones and helicopters, and thermal cameras among the methods for attempting to locate the child. The abandoned mine area where he was found had not been a part of the initial search area, and was only included after initial surveys found nothing, according to Magoffin County Emergency Management Director Robert Prater.
"He's tough, that little kid is," Brent Handshoe, who was involved in the search, told area news station WYMT, noting that "we've had people from everywhere. I really don't know where all they've come from, out of state, and everywhere to help us."
Earlier this year, a similar incident in North Carolina garnered media attention after Casey Hathaway, a child who disappeared from his family's property one evening in January, was located by search teams after two days alone in nearly freezing temperatures. Hathaway's story gained particular notice for the claim by the rescued child that he had been accompanied by "his best friend" while in the forest near his home, which he described as a large bear.
It is possible that Hathaway may have been accompanied by a dog for a portion of the time he was missing, or more likely, that this had been an imaginary experience on part of the child. However, one unique interpretation for this experience is the notion that a psychological phenomenon, known as "sensed presence," could account for Hathaway's inclusion of the bear in his experience.
Over the years, many survivors of wilderness experiences like this have described similar things. Haley Zega, a New Jersey-based actress who made headlines in 2001 when, as a child, she became separated from her family on a hike in Arkansas and remained lost for two days, told me in an interview earlier this year about unusual "psychological phenomenon" she experienced while she was lost, which involved having an imaginary friend in the forest with her who accompanied her until she was eventually rescued.
The concept was further addressed in a 2009 book by John Geiger called The Third Man Factor. In it, Geiger recounted stories of individuals that involved the feeling of a "presence" that accompanied them while lost or otherwise facing challenging situations. “All have escaped traumatic events only to tell strikingly similar stories of having experienced the close presence of a companion and helper,” Geiger wrote. In his research, Geiger included similar accounts from pilots, prisoners of war, 9/11 survivors, and even astronauts.
This "Third Man Factor" may be one of many faculties of the human mind that assist people who find themselves in emergency survival situations. However, with relation to the effectiveness of search and rescue operations in such circumstances, the news of the recovery of young Kenneth Howard, as well as that of Casey Hathaway earlier this year, shows that the coordinated efforts of volunteer rescue teams paired with state-of-the-art technology in recent years seem to have only improved the overall efficiency and success of rescue operations.