Alive and well
The search for a missing Tolaga Bay boy had a jubilant ending this morning when he was found alive and well 3.5 kilometres from his home at Mangatuna.
News came through at around 10.45am that three-year-old Axle Hamblyn had been found further inland from his Paroa Road home by a volunteer in the search team.
“He's been found and he's alive,” an elated search spokesman Sergeant Greg Lexmond said when The Gisborne Herald called him for an update.
“He's alive and well and in good health.”
Distress turned to joy and relief for Axle's family, who were reunited with the wandering infant at the Paroa Road search base soon afterwards.
Axle was being checked over by a St John Ambulance team at the search base when The Herald went to print.
The distraught family reported Axle missing to police at around 3pm yesterday and a search was initiated.
He had wandered off from his home, accompanied by a neighbour's miniature, fluffy white-coloured pet dog.
The dog returned home at 4pm but there was no sign of Axle.
The search continued through the afternoon and into the evening until around 11pm. It resumed at first light this morning.
Axle was wearing a blue-coloured shirt with palm trees on it and blue gumboots with sharks on them when he disappeared.
Police immediately appealed for sightings of him on social media and radio.
The number of people looking for him built up steadily as social media posts by police, Uawa Live and elsewhere alerted people to the situation.
“There was an absolutely awesome response from the Uawa and wider community,” Sgt Lexmond said.
“More than 150 people, police, SAR operators and members of the public were involved in the search last night, and we have about 80 involved today.”
The Trust Tairawhiti Rescue Helicopter was called in last night with thermal imaging gear on board but found no trace of the boy as the temperature dropped significantly.
The chopper rejoined the search this morning.
Members of the Character Roofing surf lifesaving emergency callout squad in wetsuits searched the shallow waters of the nearby stream last night.
“The waterways were quite clear and shallow so we were pretty confident Axle had not gone there,” Sgt Lexmond told The Herald earlier today.
They continued to search the nearby Uawa River this morning and the New Zealand police dive squad was put on standby.
Police dog teams were also used last night in an effort to track Axle's movements.
“We searched everywhere in the vicinity of the house last night and today we were in the process of going over it all again when the great news came through,” Sgt Lexmond said.
Their main focus had been in the bush area immediately around the house.
“We searched other houses in the immediate area, buses used for accommodation, shacks and huts, anywhere that Axle may have gone to play or shelter.”
“We concentrated on the more likely places that he may have gone to.
“Axle is a very mobile boy and very inquisitive,” Sgt Lexmond said.
“While he hasn't lived in that area long, he has explored a bit as kids do, and we were going over the areas he has been to before.”
Axle has two siblings — one older, one younger.
Victim Support supported the family during their ordeal.
“They were absolutely devastated, distraught overnight and this morning until the news came through that Axle had been found alive and well,” Victim Support coordinator VickI Crosswell said
“The response from the community has been just amazing,” she said earlier as the search continued.
“People have been dropping food off, offering to join the search.
“It's been an incredible response from the Uawa community and surrounding areas.
“We had people coming from everywhere — Gisborne to Ruatoria. It's been a phenomenal response.”
The boy's disappearance sparked an enormous outpouring of support, concern and prayers on social media last night.
“To the people of Tolaga, please leave your lights in your house on tonight and a blanket and teddy on your porch to entice the little man into some warmth. Even getting the smell of a hot kai going. Thousands of us are wishing we weren't hours away darling. We're all praying for you.”
“E te Atua, please guide Axle back home safe and sound. Please bless his family, friends and everyone who has been searching for him. Amine.”
“I'm sure every parent seeing this post is praying for a safe return very soon, Wish I was closer to help look for him.”
“The community of Tolaga Bay will all be out in force to help the police search. Amazing people live there and the boys in blue are amazing too. I pray all goes well.”
“I'm sure the whole of New Zealand right now is hoping that Axle is found soon and reunited with his family.”
All the prayers were answered at around 10.45 this morning.