The emotional reunion of a desperate mother and her missing three-year-old son has been captured in a heartwarming video after the child was found safe and well following a harrowing three day search.
Footage shows young Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak being carried by an SES worker into the arms of his relieved and distressed mother Kelly, who cries out ‘they’ve found my baby. AJ, it’s mummy’.
The brave and famished child – who has autism and is non-verbal – was then bundled up in a warm foil blanket while clinging to his mother before ambulance workers gave him a feast of pizza and bananas.
PolAir guided SES volunteers (pictured) on the ground to AJ’s location before they carried him to an ambulance
AJ’s mum is seen embracing a paramedic while waiting to be reunited with her little boy
AJ was comforted by a SES volunteer (pictured) after he was found drinking water from a creek
Kelly was seen cradling AJ in the ambulance (pictured) while wrapped in insulation blankets
Despite spending more than 72 hours exposed to the elements in rugged bushland on the family’s 256ha rural property in Putty, about 150km north-west of Sydney in the Upper Hunter, paramedics said he was in ‘remarkable shape’.
The incredible moment she feared would never come overwhelmed Ms Elfalak, who burst out crying as SES workers came towards carrying little AJ.
‘They’ve found my baby,’ she says while embracing a ambulance worker.
Her voice becomes more and more strained with emotion as she finally holds young AJ in her arms and comforts him in the back of the ambulance.
The entire family had been in a panic-stricken state since little AJ wandered off on Friday.
She said he was out of her sight for just a matter of seconds.
‘Our family is together again. For that we are grateful to everyone who has assisted in any way over the last three days,’ the overjoyed family said in a statement immediately after the terrifying ordeal.
‘Thank you to the NSW Police, Rescue Services, volunteers, community members, friends and family who have worked tirelessly to find AJ.
‘AJ is fine. Hold your kids close.’
Family and friends rush towards the waiting ambulance, where AJ was being assessed after he was found in a nearby creek drinking water
Family and friends at the property embrace following confirmation AJ was found alive
Anthony Elfalak (pictured with his three other sons after AJ was found) didn’t get any sleep in the three days since son AJ went missing
Kelly Elfalak (pictured) is helped from the ground by family members after being told her son had been found
A radio call signalling that the boy had been spotted by Pol Air helicopter about 500 meters from their home in a small creek sparked jubilant scenes at the family property, with AJ’s friends and loved ones seen cheering and screaming in delight moments after being told he had been found.
NSW Police have since released the incredible footage of the moment AJ was first located.
‘I’ve got the the boy!’ a PolAir officer can be saying as he provided coordinates to guide SES searchers on the ground to AJ’s exact location.
‘I’m going to get on the PA and guide the SES crew in.’
SES volunteers carried AJ to a waiting ambulance to be assessed by paramedics, where he was reunited with his parents and older brothers.
Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak was missing for 72 hours before he was miraculously found alive on Monday
AJ (pictured in the ambulance) was reunited with his parents and brothers before being taken to Singleton Hospital
This is the moment Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak (pictured) was spotted by a Pol Air helicopter, 72 hours after he went missing
He has since been taken to Singleton Hospital for a check-up after gorging on a much-needed feast.
‘He was slipping (into sleep) the whole time which (is) not surprising – once he woke up all he wanted to do was eat,’ NSW Ambulance’s Gerry Pyke said.
‘He got stuck into about three slices of pizza and a banana so he is pretty good.’
AJ has since been hailed as Australia’s toughest kid with Mr Pyke saying his condition was remarkable considering the circumstances.
Father Anthony Elfalak said he hadn’t slept or showered in four days.
The Elfalak family with father Anthony, mother Kelly, AJ (pictured centre) and two of his brothers
Three-year-old ‘AJ’ Elfalak (pictured) disappeared from the rural property on Friday, with his family having feared he was abducted
‘He’s my baby, I just can’t believe it. Finding him has saved me from a lifetime of pain,’ Mr Elfalak told reporters.
‘We have searched that area head to toe. The first day it happened, I went around with police.
‘It’s a miracle. He’s alive. It’s amazing.
‘I’ve been in the bush for four days, I haven’t slept.’
Mr Elfalak said it appeared AJ simply wanted to explore the terrain after the family moved into the property full time three months ago.
He said the property has been a ‘sanctuary’ for their family for eight years, but they didn’t consider moving here permanently until recently, when they were desperate to escape Covid in Sydney.
‘First I’m going to go have my first shower in four days… and then we’re throwing a party,’ Mr Elfalak said, inviting any loved ones from Sydney who wanted to come and celebrate.
The search continued on Monday with helicopters and drones searching from the air (pictured, rescue crews with police at the property on Sunday)
SES search crews (pictured) spent the weekend searching the area for the boy before he was found on Monday
Timeline of events
• AJ Elfalak reported missing at 11.45am on Friday while playing with his three brothers. The 650-acre property is off Yengo Drive, Putty, and is only accessible by dirt track with the home surrounded by thick bush and 15 dams.
• His mother, Kelly Elfalak, says he might have been abducted – as 50 family members join the search with 200 volunteers in the search for AJ.
• One dam is drained by excavator and police drivers also search other nearby waterways as the desperate search continues. A mysterious Ford Ranger ute was seized by police investigators at Bulga, a village which is north-east of where he was last seen. The abandoned property, about one kilometre south of the property, was also searched on Sunday as police confirmed a criminal investigation was underway. They also seized CCTV footage from a service station at Colo Heights, which is about 40 minutes drive south of Putty towards Sydney.
• Elfalak family spokesman, Alan Hashem, claim CCTV footage of him going missing was erased. However, about 11.45am police release a statement saying he’s been found, with SES workers finding him on a river bank 500 metres from the property.