North Carolina 3-year-old missing 2 days says he spent time hanging out with a bear

A missing 3-year-old was found safe after being lost for two days. He said he spent some of the time with a bear. (Photo: WSOCTV.com)

CRAVEN COUNTY, N.C. — A North Carolina community came together Friday night to celebrate officials finding a 3-year-old boy who was lost in the woods for nearly three days.

Casey Lynn Hathaway, who was found alive Thursday night after disappearing from his grandmother's yard in Craven County, is doing well and "already asked to watch Netflix," according to his mother, Brittany Hathaway.

At a news conference Thursday night, Hathaway thanked the nearly 600 volunteers who turned out to search for Casey after he went missing Tuesday.

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"Casey is healthy, smiling, and talking," she wrote on Facebook. "He said he hung out with a bear for two days, God sent him a friend to keep him safe."

Casey is healthy, smiling, and talking. He said he hung out with a bear for two days God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen.

Posted by Breanna Hathaway on Thursday, January 24, 2019

A search-and-rescue professional, Shane Grier, described finding the boy to news outlets. Searchers responding to tip a had heard Casey calling for his mother Thursday, and the Chocowinity Emergency Medical Services captain subsequently found him around 50 yards into the woods, entangled in briars.

"He was cold, but he was verbal in command to us. The more we warmed him up, the more active he became," Grier said. "For the conditions, I think he fared pretty well."

Officials said the child is in good health and was being evaluated at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern.

Authorities had said Casey wasn't adequately dressed for the weather, as temperatures hovered around freezing with intermittent rain. Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes had expressed concern about sinkholes and deep, water-filled ditches in the area, and divers were dispatched to assess nearby ponds. Volunteers were even turned away for Thursday's search because of safety concerns.

"We don't want to make an incident into another incident," Joe Monette, of the North Carolina Forest Service, said at the time. "It is an array of ditches, water - you name it, it is here."

The FBI, state investigators and the U.S. Marine Corps from nearby bases at Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point joined the effort to find Casey. Hughes says searchers covered 220 acres.

It's still uncertain where Casey was during those two days and what enabled him to stay safe. Hughes believes Casey moved around.

“We responded on a tip, located by voice this young man, went to him, disentangled him from some briars he was hung up in, brought him out, here we are,” Grier said.

When he was found, he was still wearing his jacket, zipped up. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

"We brought Casey to his family, just like we said we were going to do," he said. "I could not be happier by the way this turned out."