The man who found Axle Hambleyn said it was a “very emotional” ordeal finding the three-year-old amongst rough terrain near Tolaga Bay this morning, after hearing the boy calling out for his mother about three or four kilometres from where he went missing yesterday afternoon.
Peter Hughes said the boy was “very disorientated and calling out to his mum” when he found him in the bush about 10.45am.
“I’m just a stranger to him but I just said to him that his mum was looking for him.
“He had tears to his eyes, brought tears to my eyes, but all he wanted was his mum and he was a pretty strong young fella.”
Hughes said the boy didn't realise everyone had been looking for him.
He was found without pants, but was embraced with cuddles from his family once returned.
“He was just wanting his mum. Very strong little young fella. Good thing about it is he’s all safe," Hughes said.
“Having children of my own, that’s a parent that doesn’t want to go through that sort of nightmare.”
Axle said he'd slept in the dark but wasn’t scared, Hughes added.
When asked why he walked off, Hughes said “kids are kids”.
Axle was reported missing from his rural Mangatuna home yesterday afternoon around 3pm. A dog he was believed to be with returned home alone yesterday afternoon.
Yesterday's search concluded around 11pm, but emergency responders and volunteers returned at 5.30am today to continue the effort.
"He was found at about 10.45am and has now been reunited with his family. Police would like to thank everyone who offered their assistance in searching for him," police say.