Kentucky

‘We weren’t expecting him to be alive.’ Searchers describe how they found missing toddler.

Search teams look in an Eastern Kentucky wooded area for missing toddler

The Magoffin County rescue squad and police worked from a spot on Kenneth Combs Road near the Magoffin-Floyd county line as they looked Monday for Kenneth Howard, who was last seen by his father around 7:30 p.m. Sunday in their yard.
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The Magoffin County rescue squad and police worked from a spot on Kenneth Combs Road near the Magoffin-Floyd county line as they looked Monday for Kenneth Howard, who was last seen by his father around 7:30 p.m. Sunday in their yard.

A member of the Prestonsburg Fire Department admitted he felt hopeless before hearing the cries of 22-month-old Kenneth Howard, who was found alive Wednesday after a three-day extensive search.

Michael Tussey was the firefighter who heard Kenneth, and he and an 8-member crew followed his cries to find the toddler in an area with rough terrain and a lot of foliage near a strip mine on the Floyd-Magoffin county line. Tussey said he was bawling like a baby when they discovered Kenneth.

“We weren’t expecting him to be alive,” Tussey said. “We weren’t expecting him to be there.”

Kenneth was wearing a small t-shirt and sweatpants and was barefoot when the search team found him. When the search team made contact with the blonde-haired boy, all he wanted was something to drink, Tussey said. After getting fluids, Kenneth then began mumbling for his mother and father.

The area where Kenneth was found is known to have coyotes and there was even a confirmed bear sighting in the search area, according to John May, Wolfe County Search and Rescue chief.

Asked how Kenneth was able to survive, Prestonsburg Fire Department chief Mike Brown said “by the grace of God.”

Magoffin County Sheriff’s Office said Kenneth was in “remarkably good shape” when the search team got to him.

Fourteen different departments assisted in the three-day search that included more than 300 acres of land, according to Carter Conley, chief of the Magoffin County Rescue Squad. Kenneth was found around 1,700 feet from his home.

The young boy was taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital in West Virginia Wednesday afternoon. Carter Conley, chief of the Magoffin County Rescue Squad said that as of 12 p.m. Thursday, Kenneth was doing well and is no longer needing an IV.

“(Kenneth’s mother) is not sure when he will be released, but he has a positive outlook and a full recovery is expected,” Conley said.

WKYT reported Kenneth has swelling, tick bites and was being treated for dehydration, but the hope is for him to leave the hospital Friday.

Kentucky State Police spokesperson William Petry said it’s still being investigated as a missing person’s case.

“We don’t think there is any sort of criminal act,” he said.

Kenneth got out of his home through the back door around 7:30 p.m. Sunday. He was missing for around 67 hours.

Tuesday, the boy’s father — Elden Howard — began offering a $5,000 reward for Kenneth’s safe return.

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